Aside from a few pick-up orders, there was no meat for sale at Jim’s Meat Market on Sunday.
Instead, the shop served up warm memories and emotional goodbyes. A mainstay on Madison’s North Side for 41 years, Jim’s Meat Market closed the doors at its Northport Drive location for good after finding out in late summer that its lease in a building connected to a PDQ gas station would end due to Kwik Trip purchasing the PDQ convenience store chain.
“I know people like the meat, but I think they more like the experience of coming in here and getting an experience that we actually cared for them,” said John Lehman, a co-owner. “We had the greatest customers.”
By 1 p.m. Saturday, the meat market had sold out of nearly everything, Lehman said. That left a few remaining spice packets and tubs of cayenne pepper for sale on Sunday, while the day largely became a farewell for customers and former employees.
“I’ve been a valued customer ever since the place has been here,” said Don Briggs, a customer of Jim’s during all of the 37 years he has lived on the North Side. “It’s sad to see them go, but they’ve been good to me.”
Lehman and Claude Mattie had co-owned the meat market for six years after Jim Fosdick — the man who is the namesake of the shop — retired. Fosdick stopped by Sunday afternoon for a final look around the closing business, reminiscing about the hours he had spent talking sports with customers and employees.
While the shop at 1436 Northport Drive may be gone, the 49-year-old Lehman said he is not sure whether the closure will be permanent or temporary. He said a few options will be weighed over the coming months, including the possibility of selling the market’s popular specialty bratwursts online.
Lehman’s son, Riley Lehman, 18, started working for the meat market at 12, when he would help sell brats out of a food truck. Riley Lehman said he became emotional when cleaning up the meat market Saturday afternoon, a task he used to dread.
“It’s always been a great experience here,” he said. “It’s hard to see it go.”
The high school senior said he’ll probably get a job in the meat-cutting field after he graduates.
While the co-owners of the meat market could have leased the space until Jan. 31, John Lehman said the decision to close on Sunday was to avoid costly licenses that would have been required to operate in 2018.
In the meantime, Mattie is preparing for his first trip to Las Vegas with friends, and John Lehman is planning three weeks in Hawaii and one week in Florida with his family.
In July, Kwik Trip announced it was buying Middleton-based PDQ, which operated 15 convenience stores in the Madison area.
The La Crosse company is planning to expand the Northport Drive PDQ store into the space occupied by Jim’s Meat Market, which is adjacent to the gas station, as Kwik Trip-branded stations have a larger footprint.
Before shutting down the grinders and slicers, though, Jim’s cranked out thousands of bratwursts to be sold frozen. John Lehman said the market made about 3,600 brats a week for the past two months, ranging from macaroni and cheddar brats to gyro style, to meet customer demand.
It was an atypical amount for the post-grilling season.
“We went out with our busiest year by far. That was even before the news that we were closing,” John Lehman said. “We went out on top.”