Long before Giant and Safeway, before Shoppers and Food Lion, before grocery stores became supermarkets, there were meat markets and strong ties between butchers and customers.
A lost tradition, many say, unless you come to Main Street.
That’s where you’ll find , a legendary neighborhood store preserving relationships, building new ones, and where the lines can get mighty long on Saturday afternoon.
“Well let’s see, I drove 90 minutes to get here, another 15 is not going to destroy me,” said Sophia Holten who drove from York, Pa. “I’ve heard so much about this place from friends. Looking around, it seems well worth it.”
Although there’s no shortage of food markets in Laurel, this unique corner store attracts people in search of alternative shopping choices. They want small. They want fresh. And many like the idea of having their meat custom cut, an option not available in most supermarkets.
Brian Wade said he’s a steady customer and comes from Columbia where there’s no comparable store.
“Tell me where can you find a market like this, where you can get all kinds of fresh meat…just look at it. If I lived closer, I’d be here everyday.”
The store has a long aisle full of produce, but Laurel Meat Market is best known for its fish and meats. Their meats are air-aged and from time to time they offer venison and buffalo. The butchers are quick and knowledgeable, never missing a beat with inquiries about pork, beef or chicken.
When there are lines, they center around the meat department in the back end of the store and the deli and pie area.
The pies are made fresh twice weekly. Favorites, like the black forest, made with mixed fruits, are often sold out by early afternoon. Subs and sandwiches are made to order with area workers and neighborhood regulars waiting patiently to place their order.
During winter holidays, the lines have been known to wrap around the building. They recommend that customers call and place an order and receive a pickup number, which makes the process quicker and smoother.
“You know when you’re getting fresh. No sandwiches sitting around in plastic for hours, not here, that’s why they have my business,” said Sam Newton who ordered five subs for his family’s dinner.
The market is owned by Bill Miles who bought the store 41 years ago.
“That was Jan. 2, 1970. I remember it clearly. You see, this is a business I’ve always wanted to be in. I was raised in the meat business coming up as a young kid,” Miles said.
He said he and his butchers have a special bond with customers.
“Many of them come in here and we know how they want their meat cut. They’ve been with you so long and come in here so often, it’s like family and [you] just know their likes. I think that means a lot to them.”
He says he attributes his store’s stability to the quality of his meats and being able to accommodate requests for meat-cutting which he adds, “is a dying art.”
“The big stores cut their meat in a factory by a machine. It’s like an assembly line. They wrap it and it has a 30-day shelf life. We cut it to the size and quantity that the customers want. It’s all about service. That’s also a dying art.”
Angela Satchell, a neighborhood resident, says she’s been coming to Laurel Meat Market for more than a decade. She says she likes having an alternative to the larger supermarkets.
“You look at this case. Where have you seen meat that’s so fresh? It’s not wrapped up in that plastic. I love it that you can get one pork chop or three. They have marinated chicken and fish…oh it’s wonderful to have them in the neighborhood. I’m in here all the time,” says Satchell.
For those planning to visit the market, no need to Google for driving directions. Just keep driving down Main Street until you see a big plaster black cow that takes up half the front of the store.