Shafer’s catering business is smoking

Published 9:45 am Thursday, September 23, 2004

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS - The smell of smoked meat hangs in the air mixing with the friendly smile of Jerry Shafer behind the glass meat counter at his market on M-62 between Cassopolis and Edwardsburg.
This second generation of Shafers supplying the community with fresh cuts of meat, took over for his father, also named Jerry, about 12 years ago. He got to retire, at 49, with his wife Evie and daughter Brenda on Pine Lake Street.
Shafer's Meat Market and Smoke House has continued to grow while retaining the small local grocery store atmosphere. He may have survived where many have closed, due to adding catering and participating in the local festivals.
You may have never gone in the building across from the Old Red Brick School House, but you probably ate his barbecue at one of the many fundraisers where he donated his meat or cooking.
"I try to help out," he said, "cooking or donating a pig or ham." A few recent benefits helped a cancer victim and a surviving spouse and family.
Shafer, who lives on the border of Edwardsburg and Niles, is gearing up for the Apple Festival in Niles, where he will be serving up sandwiches under the red tents.
He is always a fixture at the Cass County Fair in Cassopolis, where he sponsors the demolition derby. Next year he plans on adding the Nappanee Apple Festival.
His cookers and grills also can travel to private parties, where he includes the side dishes and pours on his own bottled barbeque sauce. Their flavored barbeque sauces and marinades are also for sale at the market.
He won't have much time to slow down after the festivals are over as then we move into the fall and deer season.
As a treat for the first day of hunting, Nov. 15, he will provide the hunters with free sandwiches and coffee.
Lately they have been getting calls for buffalo, which he is hoping to add to the chicken, pork and beer, already offered. "We sell a ton of jerky," he said. "It's really popular. Two large smokers contain whole trays of the meat being dried with flavoring.
Customer Esther Bratton agreed that the good quality meat was what brought her coming back, that and the close location to her home in Vandalia.
If he wanted, catering could become Shafer's full-time job. "The growth has been unbelievable," he said. Recently for a business in South Bend, Ind., they catered New York strip dinners for 800. For pig roasts, he suggests using just pork butts, so you have less waste.
He has 10 employees for his catering and another 10 for the store. Shafer's, which is celebrating 28 years, is closed on Tuesday.