Whitteker Meat Market is closing a facebook post announced this week. Keith Baldwin, the operation’s longest term employee (at 39 years) said the telephone has been ringing off the hook ever since.
“Is it true?”, each and everyone wanted verification as though the source was not credible.
“Do you know how many times I’ve answered that question this week?” Keith asked us.
Whitteker Meat Market is closing. A long list of comments followed the facebook announcement. From a long list of age groups, verifying at least that Whitteker Meat Market served many, for many years, in South Dundas. Actually, had Whitteker’s remained in operation through the spring, an 81st anniversary could have been celebrated.
Walt Whitteker opened the Meat Market in 1937. Eventually he turned the business over to his son and daughter-in-law Glen and Heather who have been in charge for some 40 years. The business was listed For Sale several months ago but buyers for family business in small communities are not in abundance. And the grocery giants have left no stone unturned in their all out bid to eliminate competition.
Over the 80 years of operation Whitteker Meat Market attained a VERY BEST and then some as the go to spot for beef. They had a long list of clients, some who travelled great distances, for beef quarter and beef half custom cut, wrapped and locker frozen beef orders. To listen to locals discuss Whitteker rib steak quality and flavor was gospel. There was just no other steak like it on the planet.
Our family had a long association with Whitteker Meat Market. My father, speaking slightly above a whisper, would announce days in advance that he had arranged for some milk fed veal with Walt. Top secret stuff. And he would create a veal scallopini that was out of this world delicious. When we lived in the community with our children we always bought our meat at Whittekers. We remember being introduced to “our new butcher Keith Baldwin” working behind the counter. Keith looked just like every other 12-year-old we knew.
But Whitteker Meat Market was more than their name. Or possibly we should say, bigger than their name. For as long as we can remember Whitteker Meat Market was THE gathering place in Williamsburg Township. Including Morrisburg. Like an institution. Politicians, administrators, people about town, news hounds, doctors and lawyers. You’d run into any and all of them at Whitteker’s. So classic was this butcher shop in their hey-day that chairs were placed around the still operating wood stove where numerous discussions and decisions took place that made a difference in the municipality. And in the council chambers.
To this day Whitteker Meat Market is unique. Very unique. They operate on a six-day week. They close every day at lunch time for an hour. They are closed on Thursday afternoons. And Saturday afternoons, for longer than we can remember, will find people around the stove, intently discussing important things. And most of all, the employees at Whitteker Meat Market, to the person, know what good service means. And they continue to exercise that art to each and every customer who walks through the door.
At Whitteker Meat Market there is a collection of signage simply unseen in any other store today. Some are hand-made, some printed, some cut-outs, newspaper clippings, thank you notes, a collection of Schneider delivery trucks, a huge, stuffed St. Lawrence River Muskie landed by Glen Whitteker, a Bowfish landed by Glen Whitteker’s son, and a perfectly explained offering that reads “Homemade Apple Pies, $9.00, Need To Bake!”
To say the community will miss Whitteker Meat Market doesn’t say near enough. Over the years the business has supported any and all causes, silently stood behind the community and community events, provided support to all of the community organizations, supported seven families on a full-time basis and several more with part-time work. And as regularly as the sun came up on Monday morning each week, Whitteker Meat Market opened for business.
We spoke to Williamsburg resident 36-year-old Jaime Casselman, among a number of others, concerning the closing of Whitteker Meat Market. And Jaime explains the business/community relationship about as well as anyone we contacted. Here is her words: "We've been four generations shopping at Whitteker’s. As a child I recall Nanny & Grandpa Saddlemire doing their once-a-week grocery run "up Town" every Saturday (fond memories of Jessie and and I eating a whole tub of cool whip every weekend). I also vividly remember Glen's Dad giving out #8 Baloney for Halloween! What a treat!!! Then, as I got older, it was a one stop shop for a hangover cure-all; smokes, Roy Barkley, Buttermilk and raw hamburger... while I worked at LMS. Dad, Marc & I would meet there EVERY single morning, 5 days a week for grapefruit juice, "hot salami", #8s, chocolate milk and Players Light, with a side order of laughs from Glen, Heather, Keith and Sharon. (And whoever else would be hanging around the old woodstove). And when Marc passed, this was my comfort place. I still went and sat in our chair. And they let me sit there and just get tears in my eyes and sulk. Same when my Mum passed. And the biggest thing was, when I was dropping in there when Priscilla & Will (Jaime’s children) were just 1 and busy as anything, I was trying so hard to get milk and eggs with 2 wild toddlers running in opposite directions; Keith and the crew made sure we were safe going across the highway, always carrying our jugs of water and making sure we had everything before we left. I always said, "I never have to make a list coming in here because Keith and Sharon always remember what we needed." WHAT A beautiful bunch of people. I feel so lucky to have had them in our daily lives !
Even when I send David, Heather and Keith can always translate my grocery list for him!!!!!
Please also mention that GLEN AND HEATHER are such legends; Aside from being really good friends, they supported each and every small town business near and far and never shunned anyone. They dealt with the rich and the famous and the shy and the poor, all with the same wonderful hospitality day in and day out. There was nothing they wouldn't do for you, and you always run into somebody you know when you go in there. So bet your ass you'll be more than 5 minutes.
I dealt with them at the garage for 17 years too, and you just can't find better people. Williamsburg will definitely be a different place without Whitteker Meat Market."
Whitteker Meat Market will close on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017. The chairs beside the stove, once the favored spots for Municipal Clerk Casey Schell, Reeve Johnny Whitteker and councillor Don Kyle following Saturday council meetings, from where they antagonized, among others, Graham Hess and Rowdy Gillard, will be retired. And sadly, so too will be a way of doing business that benefitted the entire community for many years.
Jean Kennedy, who has shopped at Whitteker Meat Market for 48 years told us “This is a huge loss to the community. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Enjoy the photos.