In Salt Lake City, a family-owned-and-operated meat business has earned the Best Meat Shop award – voted on by consumers – for eight years running. But there was a time when that successful specialty meat shop, now in its sixth generation, was hanging on by a thread.

Will Wilson and his wife Amy, co-owners of Snider Bros. Meats, trace their family links in the meat industry to the early 1920s when Will’s great-grandfather and shopkeeper, “Pappy” Snider, rustled a couple of steers in Texas. A family member paid off the ranchers, but they threatened to harm him if they ever saw Pappy again.

Over the following years, the family had meat shops in Washington, Oregon and Southern California. In 1976, Charlie Snider, Pappy’s son and Will’s grandpa, settled in Ogden, Utah. He retired there to enjoy hobbies like wood-working and antiques. As a customer visiting meat stores in the area, he was always left a little unsatisfied – he found their meats to be too tough and chewy. Thinking he could do it better himself, Charlie decided to open a new meat market in Ogden, recruiting Will and Kevin Wilson (his grandsons) to join the venture and eventually take over. In 1992, Will and Amy broke off from the Ogden store to open another market in Salt Lake City.

Today, only the Salt Lake City shop remains – a shop that proudly displays the Snider Bros. Meats name.

“The Snider’s name has always stood for quality, service and selection,” Will said. “Our intention has always been to provide the best.”

Retail ready

The shop is located in the suburb of Holladay – and what a shop it is.

“I began working for my grandfather at the age of 11,” Will said. “I learned so much from him from the ground up – stocking coolers and shelves, washing windows and pans, waiting on the counter, then cutting meats and making sausage and learning how to manage the business.

“Today we have 4,500 square feet, of which 2,000 is retail area and about 2,500 is used for making our products and storage. We have 72 feet of fresh meat display cases, 48 feet for frozen meats and standing coolers as well. It is the largest meat display in this entire area.”

small-biz-snider-bros-butter-aged-american-wagyu.jpgSnider Bros. Meats’ customers get to experience some unique items, including butter-aged American Wagyu ribeyes.

 The business is strictly retail and with 24 employees it operates under state inspection. He noted that about 80% of sales are over-the-service counter, where hand-cut and trimmed fresh meats abound. As for value-added meats, the shop makes its own products, except for hams, hot dogs and cheeses. Customers are behooved to try an array of 20 different sausages. They make six different varieties of kabobs, seven flavors of marinated, boneless chicken breast, and a locally famous marinated Santa Maria tri tip.

Amy explained that the business struggled in their early days, however.

“We had a large family to feed and tried to make things stretch. We didn’t want to waste anything and were always scouring for something we could make out of it. We began to utilize that concept in our business as well, realizing the value of easy-to-prepare quality meal options.”

In the freezer section, are specialty items created by Amy, such as pot pies, meat loaf, lasagna, quiche, sauces and gravies.

“It occurred to us that at the time we were competing with the big box stores and that not everyone needed or wanted to buy 20 lbs of one item. Guess you could say we were in the ready-to-eat meat business three decades ago,” she said.

It is those specialty items that account for a large portion of the company’s sales.

Snider’s has a full-service deli, featuring in-house roasted and smoked meats, sandwiches made to order, and homemade sides and salads. The team has developed many sauces and rubs that complement all of the store’s fresh meat products.

Customer satisfaction

The shop offers a catering department designed around its roasted and smoked meats and sides galore. Snider’s has always been an indoor-shopping experience, but earlier this year a delivery program was added several days a week. Deliveries go out as far as 60 miles and offer mixed packages of meat bundles for those who have difficulty traveling or prefer to buy in bulk. Orders may be made in person, over the phone or online.

You would expect most specialty meat shops to have a regular line-up of steaks and chops, but that’s where Snider Bros. Meats leaves most others in the dust with their custom service and product availability.

“Our beef is upper third Choice grade, our pork comes from the Midwest and chicken we offer is the best we can find,” Will said. “We make a concerted effort to search out the best quality. We have been featuring A-5 Wagyu beef from Japan, cut to order. We even offer American Wagyu ribeyes encased in butter with a 60-day aging process that keeps everything moist and tender and doesn’t dry out. When you can sell out on a weekly basis it shows us there is a niche market for premium meats.”

Will and Amy are committed to treating their customers to the best in products with exceptional service. They say that if a shopper wants 5 lbs of hamburger in ½-lb packages, they will do it, and in freezer wrap. They put their customers first and try to meet their requests to the best of their capabilities.

The Wilsons not only provide top shelf meats, but want to assure that customers know how to prepare it the right way the first time.

“Education is a large part of the service we offer,” Amy said. “We love to share our knowledge of meats and the best ways to prepare them.”

“We offer a free BBQ 101 program out front in a tented area that teaches them how to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving and barbecue their meats to perfection,” Will said. “It’s important to us that they get it right the first time. We’ve had novices who’ve never grilled before, and some professionals attend as well. We even provided a ‘cheat sheet’ for attendees listing the techniques they should use when barbecuing. Meats are expensive and we really love to hear the success stories from our customers.”

Details on this and similar events are listed on the website and Facebook.

The Wilsons have a wide range of expertise to share – especially since they have competed in over 80 competitive barbecue cook-offs. And all those rubs and special sauces they have available for customers are from their own family recipes. In addition, they now sell a line-up of wood pellets, thermometers and other and other essentials right at their retail store.

small-biz-snider-bros-will-jacob-amy.jpgWill and Amy and their son Jacob (middle) demonstrate the art of smoking chicken for customers during a pitmaster class in front of the shop.

Snider Bros. Meats doesn’t do commercial advertising, but the word got out when they chose to support the local police department, the Chamber of Commerce, school groups, monasteries and sports teams. They even provide special pricing to many community entities.

For their own customers, they offer a rewards and coupon program that allows shoppers to earn points toward free meat items or even their deli sandwiches.

Will and Amy have four children. Daughter, Rachael, serves as the manager and son, Jake, is the general manager, making them the sixth generation working in the family business. Together they are rapidly learning the ropes and excelled in problem solving during the difficulties that COVID-19 presented. But during the holidays and busy seasons, you can find all the Wilson’s children and their spouses working behind the counter.

The Wilsons also take great pride in their employees and reward them in a way that goes beyond a paycheck. They offer employees events like an outside movie night, a camping trip in the Rockies and are planning events like a Scottish highland games program where they provide the food and fellowship for their co-workers to share and enjoy.

“It’s our policy to treat our employees like our best customers,” Will said. “When you take care of your crew and customers alike, you will have a shop that people are proud to work at and support.”