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Holsinger's market has 135-year history

Alfred Holsinger, started the market in 1870 as a butcher shop on what is now Broadfording Road.

Alfred Holsinger, started the market in 1870 as a butcher shop on what is now Broadfording Road.

January 07, 2007|by CANDICE BOSELY

MAUGANSVILLE - When Robby and Richie Holsinger were babies, family members would put the brothers into meat carts and push them around Holsinger's Meat Market.

Now it's expected that next fall the two young men will take over ownership of a business that has been supplying meat products to area customers for more than 135 years.

Robert "Bob" Holsinger, 73, plans to retire next September.

Holsinger said his great-grandfather, Alfred Holsinger, started the market in 1870 as a butcher shop on what is now Broadfording Road.

One of Alfred Holsinger's two sons, Alvey, continued with the business in Cearfoss, while the other son remained at the Broadfording Road site.

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Alvey Holsinger also had two sons, one of whom - Bob Holsinger's father, Elwood Holsinger - continued the business in Maugansville.

Bob and his wife, Regine Holsinger, bought what was then a low swampy lot for $800 of borrowed money in 1963, and opened at the current location on Maugans Avenue the following year.

They've since expanded in physical size and in terms of items offered.

"We didn't sit back and rest on our laurels," Holsinger said.

Fresh hot dogs that contain no chicken, jerky products and a "roller burger" - ground chuck with cheese and shaped like a hot dog - are among the items the shop has added over the years.

"We try to have things people are in need of and want," Regine Holsinger said.

Leaner, healthier items also are available and various Holsinger's products have won awards over the years.

During a recent tour of the market, Bob Holsinger encountered his grandson, 23-year-old Robert III - who goes by Robby- mixing dry ingredients on a digital scale.

"He's like a chemist," Bob Holsinger said. "We blend our own seasonings."

Further on, Robert Holsinger II was making venison sausages, while a nearby freezer contained tubs of hot dogs and jerky sticks.

"We have made snack sticks like they're going out of style. Tons and tons and tons of them," Holsinger said.

Processing deer

The hot dogs and snack sticks were made of venison; Holsinger's Meat Market processes 2,000 to 3,000 deer a year brought in by hunters.

Attached to the back of the main market is a wooden building where hunters bring their gutted deer and Holsinger's employees skin them. A rendering plant takes the deer heads while an area man buys the hides.

That deer processing area is not for the faint of heart, or the weak of stomach, since it contains skinned deer carcasses, hides and heads in garbage cans.

"We jokingly refer to it as the deer palace," Regine Holsinger said.

Holsinger said his father started processing deer and that aspect of the business picked up substantially in the mid-1980s.

A hunter typically will pay about $75 to have his or her deer processed - skinned, cut up and wrapped.

"As a normal rule he's going to get back what he's brought in," Holsinger said.

The hunter pays per pound of finished meat products. A 104-pound live deer will, on average, yield about 47 pounds of lean meat, but other factors have to be taken into account.

"A lot of times they're shot up so bad you gotta cut all that off," Holsinger said.

Robby and his brother Richard, called Richie, 21, both said they were excited about the plan that they will take over the business.

Working in a meat market was not what Robby planned to do with his life. He expected to follow in his father's footsteps and work full time for the Boy Scouts, but then started working part time at the shop while he was a student at Shippensburg University.

He changed his major and has a bachelor's degree in business administration. He said he hopes to combine what he learned in college with the hands-on experience he's acquiring at the market.

"I create something, a product, and there's always relationship-building with some of the customers," Robby gave as reasons he's interested in taking over the shop.

He said he hopes to keep the business as-is with a focus of serving local customers, but said a bigger building would be nice.

"Someday," he said. "That's wishful thinking."

His younger brother, Richie, said he most enjoys working with and interacting with customers.

He also pointed to framed black-and-white photographs in the market's lobby that show the market in 1933.

"I enjoy the history we have with the business," he said. "Seeing that picture is amazing."

As well as processing all sorts of meats, the shop operates a deli, selling subs and sandwiches, hot foods, salads, drinks and bags of chips and other snacks.

Hot foods are available until 2 p.m., while subs and sandwiches can be purchased during the shop's regular hours - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

The shop is open two Sundays a year, during the height of the firearms deer hunting season.

"The boys work around the clock. They work 24-7 those two weeks practically," Regine Holsinger said of the two-week firearms season.

Holsinger's is a family business, but does employ a few people who are not related.

"But they get to be family after a while," Regine Hol-singer said.

Although he hopes to retire in September, Bob Holsinger said he does not believe his involvement with the market will cease.

"They'll probably pull me in part time," he said good-naturedly of his two grandsons.

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