Ed Morrissey (left) and Dale Leffelman (right) bought Country Village Meats in Sublette, Ill., in 1995 after working for the meat shop’s previous owner, Doug Schrock. Morrissey and Leffelman and their staff offer “feedlot to the meat case” processing of beef, pork, lamb and goats. One of their specialties that appeals to local customers and those from the area’s seven area campgrounds are the shop’s variety of specialty bratwursts and seasoned, smoked and marinated meats and chicken.
Ed Morrissey (left) and Dale Leffelman (right) bought Country Village Meats in Sublette, Ill., in 1995 after working for the meat shop’s previous owner, Doug Schrock. Morrissey and Leffelman and their staff offer “feedlot to the meat case” processing of beef, pork, lamb and goats. One of their specialties that appeals to local customers and those from the area’s seven area campgrounds are the shop’s variety of specialty bratwursts and seasoned, smoked and marinated meats and chicken.
SUBLETTE, Ill. — The hand-lettered sign on the meat case at Country Village Meats says what it is — “BACON.”

And like the sign right below the packages, the bacon has been cut and smoked just a few feet away from the meat case where it now resides.

“We smoke all of our own product. We do all of our own marinating,” said Ed Morrissey, co-owner of Country Village Meats.

Country Village Meats is on the verge of celebrating 20 years under the ownership of Morrissey and Dale Leffelman.

The pair bought the business in 1995 from the late Doug Schrock. They worked part time for Schrock, so purchasing the shop when Schrock decided to sell was a natural next step.

There are a few things that are landmarks when you get to Sublette. Sublette Farmers Elevator dominates the downtown business district — concrete bins and the elevator infrastructure rising into the sky.

Country Village Meats is another local institution.

The small white building looks much the same as it did 19 years ago when Morrissey and Leffelman took the reins. What goes on inside has changed — even as it remained the same.

“We’re using a lot more technology. Everything is more advanced, like smoking and the tumblers and measurements. The equipment is more advanced, more efficient and that makes the product that much better,” Morrissey said.

The product is beef, pork, lamb and goat slaughtered and processed on the premises under inspection. They buy chicken from an outside vendor and then add seasonings and marinades.

“Our animals come from the local and regional area, from La Salle County, DeKalb County and around the area,” Leffelman said.

They said that questions from shoppers about where the animals come from and how they’re raised have increased in the last few years.

“They do want to know. A lot of people really want to know where the animals are coming from,” Morrissey said.

“They want meat with no hormones and we get questions about grass-fed versus grain-fed,” Leffelman said.

The Process

All good art takes time and the process that gets an animal from hoof to grill varies in length.

“The beef will hang from 10 days to two weeks to age it. The hogs are processed the day after slaughter. We cut them up and it takes about another week to process all of them because we do the hams and sausage,” Leffelman said.

The shop’s best-selling products are those that are destined for the grill.

“Our barbecued chops are popular, and the marinated chicken, and our steaks,” Leffelman said.

In addition, the shop is famous for offering a creative variety of flavored and seasoned bratwurst for grilling. Brats that include apple, pineapple and jalapeno cheese are among the flavorful lineup.

“We get ideas from all over. If a customer has something somewhere else, they might bring us the idea and we give it a try,” Leffelman said.

Morrissey and Leffelman make it their business to be at the business. The meat cutting is done out in the open and visible to customers.

“People want to see the owners. It’s your business. If you turn it over to someone else, they might not care as much. We appreciate our customers. We try to be honest with them and fair, and that’s how we do business,” Leffelman said.

They stay busy year-round, the shop is a go-to for many local consumers.

“Usually from April to January is the busiest tie. It doesn’t slow down much because the campground traffic is steady. If it’s nice out in October and November, the people are at the campgrounds. Around the holidays, we’ve got customers in buying prime ribs and hams to get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Morrissey said.

Sausage Secrets

Leffelman said his favorite part of the job is making sausage.

“You can make different things, try different recipes,” he said.

Morrissey said he enjoys the interaction with the customers and knowing that they’re happy with their product.

The co-owners are related by marriage — they’re brothers-in-law and the business is a family business, with Leffelman’s sons, Connor and Jake, working in the shop and learning the trade. Connor and Jake, along with employee Tyler Dempsey, are the likely next generation to take over the business.

“They’re all showing a lot of interest,” Morrissey said.

They’ll be keeping alive an art and science that some thought might disappear but that shops like Country Village Meats are keeping alive and thriving.

“Everybody speculated that slaughtering was someday going to go by the wayside. It really hasn’t happened. People are still raising their own animals and small shops are still slaughtering and processing meat,” Morrissey said.

Judging from the standing-room only customer traffic as well as the consistent five-star Yelp reviews, their approach to the business of local meat is successful.

“Absolutely the best meats anywhere, at reasonable prices,” Dave S. of Bloomingdale, commented in June.

“The guys are all really nice in there as well so if you’re a meat eater — this is definitely the only place you need to go for everything ‘meat’,” said self-professed vegetarian Annette C.T. of Chicago.

“Everything I have had from here has been fresh, delicious and well priced! The people behind the counter are polite, helpful and obviously enjoy what they do!” said Kevin W. of Carol Stream.