When Lori Nowitzki first came to City Meat Market, her heart sank.
After announcing his retirement two years ago, his father, John Bruni, recently bought the downtown Salt Ste. Mary’s business is fulfilling a longtime dream of owning her own butcher shop.
But, as first impressions go, it was out there as one of the worst.
The store’s messy exterior gave way to a more elaborate interior, and it became clear that, as the previous owners neared retirement, the business was left to deteriorate and needed a significant overhaul. Was.
“I didn’t know what to say,” Novitsky recalled. “But my dad said, ‘You have to look beyond the dirt, and the mess, and all the things; here’s the potential.'”
Nowitzky — who spoke on behalf of his notoriously media-shy father — admitted that it was a long time of a solid five years, lots of cleanup, and extensive renovations before the family finally felt like he had taken the business off something like that. re-added to something they can be proud of.
Sixteen years later, City Meat Market, run by the Bruni family, has become a favorite local source for high-quality meat, fresh produce and homemade foods, prepared from scratch and made on-site.
Lasagna, bread, fruit and meat pies, pasta sauce, and meatballs are among the items that are hand-crafted to be sold at the family’s craft store, much of it prepared in single servings to cater to its elderly customers. is done.
“Now you walk in and it smells great here,” Novitsky said.
“My dad makes fresh bread every morning, you have fresh cut up meat, and sometimes there’s a pot of sauce in the back in the kitchen…. You’re smelling all those aromas and then you’re smelling fresh meat, so it’s a nice feeling; People feel like they are at home.”
Much of the City Meat Market’s early history has been lost to time, but since its 1910 founding the business has been run by only a handful of owners, “which is pretty remarkable,” Novitsky said.
Equally notable is his father’s personal entrepreneurial journey, which began at the age of 12 after his family emigrated to Canada.
Arrival at Salt Stay. Marie with modest means, Bruni lost an education in favor of earning a living to help support her family.
After working at the Palace Meat Market, he set out to learn the meat-cutting trade, where he showed early promise as a skilled and capable butcher.
“They gave him a full time opportunity because he had to feed his family; That was the reality of that era,” Novitsky said.
“With nothing coming from Europe, he had a suitcase and some hoped he would get an opportunity here. So that was his goal. And he supported his family. He helped them buy their first home.” Of.
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Bruni spent 35 years working for others as well as being married to his wife, Rosina, with whom he raised three children.
Trying to strike a balance between work and family obligations, Bruni put his business ambitions on hold, but they were never far from his ideas, Novitsky said.
His vision reappeared all those years later when he bought City Meat Market while working with his wife, his daughter, and his son-in-law, Jamie Elliot.
In nearly two decades, Bruni never deviated from his rigorous work schedule, arriving at the shop by 3:30 a.m. to bake fresh bread and prepare meat for the day.
Customers who have shopped at City Meat Market over the years have become friends, many of them coming to speak directly with Bruni, who greets them by name and often stops at their work to chat over coffee. goes.
“He’s all inside; he doesn’t do anything halfway,” Novitsky said. “He does it 100 percent with his heart, and his motto is that if he won’t eat meat, or if it doesn’t live up to his expectations, he won’t sell it.”
Nowitzki said the family works with local producers to bring in products grown or made in the area and continually seeks to include more local products to support Algoma’s economy.
This includes beef from Penokian Hills Farms, fish from Agawa Fishery, coffee from St. Joseph Island Coffee Roasters, and milk from Lock City Dairies, as well as maple syrup, honey, eggs, lamb, and chicken, all produced nearby. There are.
Demand for local products has exploded over the past two years, Novitsky said, and in the early days of the pandemic, workers were scrambling to meet the need.
At one point, employees were answering four different phones, panicking about getting food for frantic customers. In most cases, employees were able to fill orders within 24 hours, offering curbside pickup and delivery to those who couldn’t move out.
“We still have people coming to us and thanking us for what we did,” Novitsky said, adding that the family feels “blessed” to have such loyal customers.
It was during those turbulent times that local manufacturers were the most reliable, maintaining reasonable prices and regular delivery schedules to ensure the store could serve its customers, she said.
In October, City Meat Market will celebrate its 17th year in operation. Business is brisk, but the family has started talking about what will happen next.
Nowitsky said running a family enterprise is tough, requiring long hours and few vacations or days off. And when the whole family is involved, there are fewer opportunities to spend time together outside the shop.
Nowitsky, a teacher by training, said she committed to working 20 years at the store before she wanted to explore other interests.
But she hopes that the family butcher shop – her father’s dream and the culmination of a lifetime of hard work – will remain in the family.
“It can be a lot, and can be overwhelming at times, when you’re trying to balance work and family life, but we make it work,” she said.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I can honestly say that we’ve put our heart and soul into it.”
This article is one in a series focused on the rich history, travel, and long-term successes of generational businesses in Northern Ontario.