At a time when most meat men were ready to hang up the apron and put away the knives, Thomas Stoysich was just shifting into a higher gear. The Hungarian immigrant who left Budapest in 1916 and labored for 33 years in Midwestern packing houses decided to start his own store and meat market in 1949.
The fruit of that second effort, Frank Stoysich Meats, stands today as one of this country’s premier retail meat outlets in the Southwestern corner of Omaha.
Frank Stoysich Jr., the 55-year-old president of the independent family owned enterprise, represents the third generation to run the company. And, true to his grandfather’s grit, he is leading the 15-employee showpiece retail store to new heights in meat processing and merchandising.
He has three younger sisters (Tracey Bartek, Cathy Turco and Christine Davis) who are also partners with him in operating the Old World meat business as well as a son who works on a part-time basis.
Thousands of customers frequent this cut-above meat market and love the concept almost as much as the products they find there.
“The reaction of first-time customers who walk in and believe they have found a hidden treasure trove of meat validates the efforts we put into every aspect of making this market a genuine shopping experience,” Frank says. “We even have customers who have moved away and come for a return visit to let us know they miss our place and to share their belief that there is nothing like this meat market anywhere they have traveled.
“We want to provide only the finest quality products and the best service around. To get to that level it means we have to put ourselves in the customers’ shoes. When they walk in we want to have already fulfilled their expectations of a business that is ultra-clean, smells enticing, has only the best products, displays them properly, serves them informatively and with courtesy and has them thinking ‘wow...where did this place come from?’ When they leave, we want them to know they’ve never seen anything like our store.”
Gearing everything to customer satisfaction in the 3,000-sq.-ft. retail area includes showing off the history of the business and the dedication to Old World-style meat processing. One might call it craftsmanship that shows up in every one of the nearly 100 different products the company produces in their 7,000-sq.-ft. processing area beyond the store.
The product quality is top shelf and customers are treated to samples that fortify their desire to try new taste sensations and tempt them to bring those items home.
If the tasting convinces customers they want to buy the item, the hundreds of cured meats’ competition awards displayed throughout the retail area will remind them while they are paying a little more for those products – they are getting state and national championship-caliber meats.
Frank admits that the bedrock items are the original ethnic products like fresh and smoked kielbasa, Swedish potato, cheddar bratwurst, Dutch and Italian sausages. Yet a vast variety of Cajun, apple, American-style polish and pork and beef links complement the fresh sausage department. In the smoked and cooked section, customers can choose from old-fashioned wieners, knockwurst, ring bologna and summer sausage.
Cooked products include Polish kiszka, Jaternice (Jelta), German bockwurst, liver sausage, and jellied loaves of souse, head cheese and tongue.
When queried about a signature product, Frank politely mentions the sausages, but is quick to point out the championship hams, hickory bacon and their selection of beef jerky.
“People are smart,” he says. “They want the top quality and our store is the place where they can buy that special gift ham or a special meat product they can’t find anywhere else or with this quality and service. Our job is to make our products and their presentation distinguish us from everyone else.”
Frank Stoysich Meats doesn’t rely on advertising, but supports and aids many church groups with their festivals and events. The Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays find the counters lined with customers seeking that one-of-a-kind ham or specialty product to assure their family has the best it can get for the main meal.
Fresh meats with custom cutting are a big deal at the service counters. Frank believes that his customers want locally sourced beef and pork and his instinct has proven correct. Similarly, the 8-ft. deli service counter features salads, luncheon meats and cheeses. Shoppers can also obtain breads and rolls delivered regularly by two local bakeries.
The shopping back at the deli also peaks during the College World Series hosted in the city, with fans filling coolers and vehicles with tailgate supplies. Stoysich’s also offers a selection of wines and imported beers.
“We’ve stayed away from trying to compete with larger stores that offer meat bundles and bulk orders,” Frank emphasizes. “We’re not going to compete on price. We want to offer only the best at a fair price.”
The European-looking market is more than looks. Customers can also find pickled herring, pierogies, cabbage rolls and fresh corned beef, along with smoked salmon, Krakowska, Canadian bacon and a wide variety of imported specialty foods.
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When Thomas Stoysich began his original Red and White grocery store and meat market in 1949, he ran the operation for 12 years before retiring. True to European tradition, he and his wife lived on the floor above the shop. He sold the business to his son Frank Sr. and his wife Marilyn, who ran it for another 51 years. After Frank Sr. passed away in 2011, his son took over. Frank Jr. had worked part-time at the retail market since he was in grade school and came to work at the store on a full-time basis after studying business at the Univ. of Nebraska-Omaha.
Marilyn and Frank Sr. served as secretary and treasurer for the Nebraska Association of Meat Processors (NAMP) for 10 years. Marilyn continued to write NAMP’s newsletters for another decade after finishing her secretarial duties. She still comes in to the market most days to help out in various departments.
Frank admits he is a firm believer in trade organizations like NAMP and the American Association of Meat Processors.
“I’ve learned so much from other small meat business operators who were willing to talk openly with me and share their ideas,” he reminisces. “The groups and the short courses I was able to take helped me take a good business concept and keep improving on it. Sometimes you have to go out to get those business tools and operational knowledge and keep improving the products and service as well.”
A four-alarm fire damaged the original store in 1985, but a planned and virtually completed expansion for the processing area was put into use almost instantly.
Frank Jr. says he sees a solid growth in snack items like meat sticks and jerky. He recently invested in a new Jaccard slicer for jerky and a new Handtmann stuffer to improve efficiency. Snack food sales have now increased to 15 percent of the shop’s total sales.
On the radar he’s been eyeing some improved packaging equipment. He’s also been showing the ropes to his son Thomas, who works part-time at the plant and is currently studying business at the Univ. of Nebraska-Omaha.
“I think we will continue to operate much as we have historically,” he concludes. “After all, how could we not want to be the place that wows those who come through our door.”