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
“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
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.
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,”
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
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
“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.
Leffelman said his favorite part of the job is making
“You can make different things, try different recipes,” he
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
“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
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.