LINCOLN PARK — Gepperth’s Meat Market in Lincoln Park is reopening next week after being temporarily closed all January, but the shop continues to struggle with rising meat prices and staffing shortages.
Gepperth’s, 1964 N. Halsted St., temporarily closes at the start of each year to give staff time off and the owners a chance to fix up the shop. The 111-year-old meat market is normally reopen by Jan. 15, but this year it won’t reopen until Feb. 1 due to ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic, owner Vincent Colombet said.
“Basically, nothing is going the way we want right now,” Colombet said.
Like many businesses, Gepperth’s has experienced staffing shortages since the pandemic started, and one of the meat shop’s butchers retired at the end of 2021, Colombet said.
Fortunately, Otto Demke, who sold the business to Colombet in 2020, has stuck around the butcher shop, working two days a week “because he likes it” and to mentor staff, Colombet said.
“It’s a big help and he’s there to teach everybody how to do things,” Colombet said. “Plus the old customers still get to see him, which is nice because he’s kind of like the soul of that place.”
But the shop has also struggled with supply chain issues that have caused meat prices to “skyrocket,” with some beef prices rising as much as 300 percent, Colombet said.
“It’s been very challenging with the supply crisis,” Colombet said. “We’re able to find everything, but the prices went up like crazy. Cheaper products like chicken or pork haven’t changed much, but we saw the price of beef skyrocket.”
In turn, Gepperth’s has had to raise its own prices — but not too high that it turns customers away, Colombet said.
“It’s gotten to the point where we’re barely making any money because we can only pass on so much of that price to the customers,” Colombet said.
Even Demke, who ran the shop with his wife, Dianna Demke, from 1981 to 2020, is shocked by the inflation of meat prices, Colombet said.
“Otto said he hasn’t seen prices go up like that ever in his life,” Colombet said. “He’s used to raised prices throughout the year, but not a jump of 30-40 percent like we’ve had to for certain items.”
Between the staffing and pricing issues, Gepperth’s has struggled to bring in the same amount of money the butcher shop once did, Colombet said.
“So with all that combined — January being a slow month, we don’t have the staff, prices are going up and we’re not making any money — we decided we might as well stay closed for now,” Colombet said. “But we’re probably going to reopen Tuesday because it’s the end of January and we’re hoping more people will be coming out.”
When Gepperth’s reopens, its hours will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. The shop is closed Sunday and Monday.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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