Quality is meat of the business
Joe Spera, owner of Al's Meat and Poultry Market, said high quality meat and knowing what customers want keeps them loyal. | Jackie Pilossoph~ For Sun-Times Media
A Closer Look
Al’s Meat & Poultry Market
1165 Wilmette Ave.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
Updated: December 18, 2012 2:42PM
WILMETTE — Mary Lyman likes good food.
To get the best ingredients, the Wilmette resident travels to five different specialty stores to shop for one meal. So, when it comes to meat, Lyman said she buys from the best: Al’s Meat & Poultry Market.
“Nothing here is pre-ground,” said Lyman, who has been a customer for 11 years. “It’s all done in front of you, and the butchers here know how to prepare the meat. Everything is made fresh. Nothing is manufactured.”
The butchers Lyman are referring to are Owner Joe Spera and Carl Streng, who has worked at Al’s for 10 years cutting meat, waiting on customers and making sausage and meat loaf.
“I sell high quality meat, and I know my customers and what they want,” Spera said. “That’s how I keep people loyal.”
Al’s Meat Market was started by Spera’s father, Al, in 1961. Originally located in Hubbard Woods, Al ran the business until he passed away in 1992, leaving the store to his son. Joe moved the business to Wilmette in 2001.
“I was thinking of selling it when he died,” said Spera, who at the time was in the trucking business, but had worked in his dad’s store periodically throughout his life. “But the more I worked here, I started realizing that I liked the business and the hours, and I decided it was a great job.”
Spera jokes that his favorite part of being a butcher is when beautiful North Shore women give him money.
“You don’t want to buy your New York strips anywhere else,” customer Mary Lawlor said. “This is the best meat on the North Shore. Delicious and tender.”
“The meat is just high quality and very tender,” said customer, Pat Hinkel.
Al’s Meat and Poultry Market sells all kinds of meat, including prime dry age beef, chicken, veal, pork, lamb, turkey, hanging beef, sausage, brats, lamb sausage and lamb burgers. The store also carries a wide variety of condiments, pasta, eggs, potatoes and onions.
At Christmas time, Spera said his biggest sellers are prime rib, beef tenderloin, crown roast, duck and Danish Pork roast, which is a skin-on pork loin.
“I go to the markets and choose the meats myself,” said Spera, who said he learned the business over the years through trial and error. “I go to quality vendors, who know what I’m looking for.”
Al’s truly is an old fashioned butcher shop. There’s no computer, no cash register, and the store only accepts cash and checks.
Then there’s the house account. Customers can shop for unlimited items, and they are billed once a month.
“The prices are very reasonable,” said customer Bernie Dobroski, of Kenilworth, who was buying short rib ground beef and smoked pork chops. “The quality of the meat is the best in the city, the butchers are knowledgeable, and they cut the meat the way you want it.”
“When you go to a Costco or Whole Foods, those are not trained butchers,” said Lyman, “They don’t prepare it like these guys do.” She added, “And by the way, his steaks are amazing.”