New generation takes overPublished 11:25am Thursday, July 3, 2014
SOUTH BEND — It used to be that when one generation decided to retire from running a family-owned business, the next generation would automatically step up and keep it going.
Nowadays, though, it seems more common for a small business — even a very successful one — to close its doors or be bought out by the competition when the founding generation decides it is time to move on to a new phase in life.
Fortunately for the dedicated customers of Eby’s Old Fashioned Meat Market, located at 56977 S. Mayflower Rd., that business will stay in the family and continue its traditions under the ownership of Paul Lagodney, nephew and son of the current owners, when he fully takes the reins in August.
“My uncle started Eby’s in 1983, and shortly after that, my father joined him,” Lagodney explained. “They are brothers-in-law and friends, and they’ve been very successful for the last 30 years.”
Lagodney first started working in the family business when he was 14 years old.
“I remember the day that I first went to work there. It was July 2. I was just hanging out at home with nothing to do, so my dad took me to work with him. I just started washing pans and carrying out groceries for customers, and I thought, ‘This is really cool!’”
Lagodney continued to work at Eby’s through high school, but when he graduated, his father told him it was time to leave the nest.
“My dad told me that if I wasn’t going to go to college, I needed to go out into the real world and find out what it’s like to get a job,” Lagodney said. “He told me, ‘You have to work for what you want.’”
So, Lagodney applied for a job at Martin’s Supermarkets.
“I started out as a clean-up kid and apprentice, and I worked my way up over 20 years there to become the meat manager,” Lagodney said. “When they asked me to become the meat manager at the Heritage Square store — that’s their premier store — I knew then that I was successful, and I had made it on my own.”
Although Lagodney loved working for Martin’s, he always dreamed of returning to Eby’s.
“Leaving Martin’s was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, even though it was always my dream to go back to Eby’s and work with my dad and uncle,” Lagodney said. “It’s really awesome to come back and work with them — the two guys I’ve always looked up to. It always made me proud when they would come in and say ‘Hi’ to me and see what I was doing at Martin’s.”
Now that Lagodney has returned, he wants customers to rest assured that they will continue to receive the same quality of service and the homemade products that they’ve come to love.
“The big thing with our market is that all of our stuff is homemade,” Lagodney said. “Polish sausage is our specialty. I’ve known that Polish sausage recipe and the other secret family recipes since I was 14 years old, and nothing is changing.”
That includes Eby’s Salisbury steak and meatloaf recipes as well as the recipe for stuffed peppers that was handed down from his “great-busha,” or great-grandmother.
“You can’t get that anywhere else in the South Bend area,” Lagodney said proudly.
Coming from a younger generation, Lagodney has implemented a few new ideas at Eby’s while retaining the quality and service that customers have come to expect.
“I’ve already been trying to put a few new things in place, like the Facebook page, and we’re doing some new advertising in the Sunday paper,” Lagodney said, noting that Eby’s Facebook page already has 2,000 followers. “I’ve also added some new items like pre-marinated items and ready-to-cook items.”
Nonetheless, the focus will continue to be on the homemade sausages and hand-cut meats that people travel hundreds of miles to buy from Eby’s.
“We have customers who come from as far away as Tennessee and Florida to buy our Polish sausages,” Lagodney said. “People keep asking when we are going to start shipping our products. That’s how popular they are!”
Eby’s also carries other grocery items as well as fresh produce, and customers can visit the Facebook page to see what the specials will be each week. They are typically open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., and they can be reached at (574) 287-3586.