By Paula Roy –
In a marriage or a monarchy, the 60th year is called a diamond anniversary. While Saslove’s Meat Market may not be garnishing customer orders this year with sparkly gems, the company is nonetheless very proud to be celebrating 60 years in business.
A longtime anchor in the ByWard Market, Saslove’s second location on Wellington Street West opened in May 1996, complementing the neighbourhood’s growing food scene.
Joel Diener operates the Kitchissippi location while his brother John is at the helm in the ByWard Market. Both are proud to be continuing in a family business established in 1954 by Sam Saslove and Nathan Diener, John and Joel’s father. A native of Poland, Nathan emigrated to Canada in 1948 and made a name for himself throughout his career as a generous and hardworking businessman. It is these values that have helped the company thrive for decades, long after Sam sold his stake.
Growing up in the butchery business gave Joel a great perspective on success. “I started working in the store at a very young age and one of the things I remember so clearly is how our father paid attention to details. He knew his customers by name and always sealed a deal with a handshake,” recalls Joel. “He was also very good at sourcing unique products to serve the needs of various ethnic communities. This really helped the store weather economic ups and downs over time,” he adds.
Immediately upon opening the Wellington Street store, Joel made it his practice to constantly adjust the offerings to suit the taste of what has been a very supportive community.
“We were overwhelmed by the number of people who came in during the first few months of operation and told us how glad they were to have a full-service butcher shop in the neighbourhood. Locals are our mainstay though we do draw customers from all over the region.”
“In an era where many people are now content to do all their food shopping at large supermarkets, I think our continued success at Saslove’s comes not only from relationship building but also through the ability to adapt,” explains Joel. “We get so many requests and suggestions from customers and we try out best to fulfill every one if we can.”
“As a result of customer demand, we were one of the first butchers in the city to offer organic meat,” he notes, adding that it continues to be extremely popular. “And when we first started offering prepared foods, we couldn’t believe the positive customer response, so that aspect of the business is constantly being expanded as both customers and staff suggest new recipes. Our new veggie burgers, created by my daughter, are a great example of this.”
While Joel admits they do a brisk business with all their various prepared foods, Saslove’s remains, at its heart, a classic butcher shop, fulfilling meat orders from the mundane to the extraordinary, whether it’s burgers or Wagyu beef steaks.
Joel confirms that while his father’s impressive work ethic certainly shaped the way Saslove’s continues to operate, it is always a team effort. “I have to give full credit to our amazing staff,” he says. “They are the ones who deal with customers every day and make sure people walk out the door happy. But that’s what retail is all about, right? There’s no other way to stay in business for sixty years.”