LINCOLN PARK — Gepperth’s Meat Market in Lincoln Park has closed after more than 115 years in business.
Gepperth’s, 1964 N. Halsted St., closed its doors for good on Saturday after a steady drop in sales throughout the last few decades, owner Vincent Colombet said.
“It’s a trend,” Colombet said. “The meat prices are too high, people eat less meat and it’s not 1980 anymore. People don’t think if they eat a steak, they’ll be strong. Their mentality and behavior has changed.”
Though the decline in sales has been gradual, the butcher finally reached a point where it was no longer profitable enough, Colombet said.
“Nobody buys meat anymore,” Colombet said. “We’ve seen this consistently from month to month, but you can really see this trend going through 10 years of history, little bit by little bit.”
Colombet started reevaluating the business around January, when the meat market closed for a month due to added challenges brought on by the pandemic, he said.
“Basically, nothing is going the way we want right now,” Colombet said at the time.
Like many businesses, Gepperth’s experienced staffing shortages since the pandemic started. One of the meat shop’s butchers retired at the end of 2021, Colombet said.
Otto Demke, who sold the business to Colombet in 2020, stuck around the butcher shop, working two days a week to mentor staff, Colombet said. But the shop was still struggling with supply chain issues that have caused meat prices to “skyrocket.”
Some beef prices rose as much as 300 percent, he said.
“When you’re buying meat at the price you’re supposed to be selling it, it’s quite challenging for either you, the business, or the customer,” 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.”
Gepperth’s staff was “really sad” about its closure, but Colombet said he’s planning on opening a restaurant in the space.
One idea is to open a speakeasy-style steakhouse, because the shop already has all the necessary butcher equipment, Colombet said.
The steakhouse would be “very good but very simple,” focusing on being approachable and affordable to customers rather than going for a fancy setting, Colombet said.
“We’re trying to find new things to do in here, so we’re going to revive it one way or the other,” Colombet said.
Eater first reported on Gepperth’s closure.
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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