Delaware's Herman's still sells quality meats after 50 years
By JEFF NEIBURG
Oct. 28, 2017
NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Christine Herman says there isn't much that's changed inside Herman's Quality Meat Shoppe in 50 years of doing business.
There's still sawdust scattered on the floors. If the health department would allow it, she'd probably peel the current flooring up and bring back the old look of plywood.
"You can come to Herman's and still get it the old-fashioned way," Herman said.
Last Saturday, Herman's celebrated its 50th anniversary of serving quality, custom-cut meat and other products to the people of Newark and beyond.
Herman, a second-generation owner, married into the family, and she and her late husband, Timothy, took control of the operation in 1992. Christine has a degree in Spanish from the University of Delaware. But it was inside Herman's where she earned her master's in running a meat shop.
With a background in retail and sales, Herman remembers Timothy forcing her to learn how to cut meat in an effort to help the two go home earlier at the end of a long day inside the store at 64 E. Cleveland Ave., steps away from the University of Delaware.
A year after the couple took over the business from Timothy's parents, Luther and Jeanette Herman, Timothy was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. He lived another 15 years and eventually succumbed to the disease on Oct. 8, 2008. Christine has operated the business as sole owner since.
"October is a very important month for me for a lot of reasons," she said.
So what does 50 years of family-oriented service mean to Herman, after all these years, through the ups and downs?
"This is a big milestone, considering the fact that so many small businesses don't last this long," Herman said. "It means that we are needed and we are loved in the community just as much as we love and need our community. It's not just a business where you come and buy something and I put money in my pocket. We give it back to the community and the community gives it back to us. We've provided a lifetime of service and commitment to each other.
"Our customers are our family."
That family environment is proved no better than by Sandra Bell, who has been a customer since the '70s. And after retiring from AstraZeneca, Bell now works for Herman at the shop.
Bell said she mainly helps out in the office, but both she and Herman conceded her job description is always evolving.
"I'm updating my resume," Bell joked.
Throughout the month of October, Herman's is kicking off its anniversary year by donating 50 cents from every pound of ground beef purchased to a local charity.
Over the next year, they'll celebrate in various ways, like new logos on T-shirts, new products, messages from past employees and customers and monthly drawings. Herman said she's still working out some of the details.
Herman's in-laws purchased the business from the McMullen family on Oct. 14, 1967. The business was on Main Street at the time, but moved over to Cleveland Avenue in 1970.
Timothy was the second of four children. And when it came time for the Herman's to pass the business on, Timothy and Christine decided to commit their lives to the family tradition, which they did together for 16 years until Timothy's health deteriorated.
The business was on the market near the end of Timothy's life, but Christine opted to press on and reopened the store shortly after his passing at the age of 58.
"Being here in this community of our customer environment and family, we could grieve together," Herman said. "We could transition and move forward together. They knew him. They know my kids."
Timothy and Christine had four kids between them. Herman said their children are mostly doing their own thing, and there isn't an obvious successor among them. They do help out at the store around the holidays, though. And Herman said they've helped her modernize the business while still sticking to the old-fashioned values.
For instance, Herman's now serves heat-and-eat products and makes sandwiches and other items to order, which the business became certified to do around three years ago. The shop also serves fresh veggies, making it a one-stop shop for dinner. In recent years, Herman's has been using a smoker to smoke various meats, including a popular smoked chicken salad.
Herman said the kids have also helped her get the business on the web, giving recommendations with the website and building a Facebook page.
"I'm tweeting now," Herman said. "Who would have thought?"
Some things do change.
Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com