words and photos by Nic deCourville
As someone who spent 10 years working at a meat store, I wanted to get a better experience of some of the local shops around Akron. I get a bit nostalgic whenever entering a new butcher shop, and Showcase Meats offered me plenty. Owned by sisters Robin Blaurock and Renee Campbell, the store offers everything from fresh-cut meat to hot dinners.
Currently operating on Manchester Road on the southern edge of Kenmore, the store recently moved from 16th Street. While I never got the opportunity to shop at the old location, it was hard not to notice the fabulous mural of a sunny day on a farm painted on the side of the building. While the new location does not yet have a mural, what it does have is a quaint shop rooted in family.
The store was originally opened by the sisters’ father. “He started in the meat cutting industry, and opened a Showcase in 1971,” says Robin. “It started as a little meat market, and probably 20 years ago we added the fried chicken, which is our biggest seller now.”
While cooked foods were a welcome addition to the store, they did bring about some complications. In Ohio, for a grocery store to be capable of accepting Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, the business must not go over a certain percentage of sales in cooked food. Unfortunately, Showcase Meats does so well with their hot food, they can no longer accept the Ohio Direction card.
“Last year some things changed with the mandates, and if you do 75% or more in hot foods, you are unable to carry the EBT,” Robin says. “For many years, we always did, and it worked out great for the community. But you know, rules changes, times change, and it was very hard to let go of that part of the business.”
I had heard from a friend who works in the industry that many places are experiencing meat shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I asked Robin her take on the matter. “Not so much on the chicken end of things, luckily, that’s held in there for us. But a beef and pork shortage… There was about a week when we didn’t have any beef in the case,” Robin says. “Everything was sporadic. You would get a couple items one week, a couple items the next. You never knew what you were going to get. But now everything is coming back into play.”
While beef and pork items are becoming more available, they are coming at a cost, with some beef items even doubling in price. (You can see this on the front of the building, where Showcase Meats has replaced its usual prices with the updated ones).
Of course it is not just food prices and shortages that are different. The store also follows the guidelines for COVID-19 typical of an Ohio business: Masks, plexiglass and sanitizer were all present when I visited the shop. “We’re trying now to get back to normal,” Robin says. “We tried curbside, and paying over the phone, which is things we don’t normally do. But we’re inching our way back to normal now.” During a time when many small businesses are suffering, it was refreshing to hear from Robin that the store was doing well.
I made the mistake of scheduling this interview at 10 am. While the large menu of different sandwiches looked alluring (as well as chicken and waffles!), my stomach was simply not craving something quite so heavy that early in the day. I also felt a bit guilty asking the staff to dirty their equipment before opening just for me. Instead of getting hot food, I decided to indulge my sweet tooth with several freshly made maple cream sticks. These were not the cream sticks you would get at your local Circle K: they were fresh and moist, and the cream-center packed a sugar rush that I felt would help me run a marathon.
The deserts do not stop at simple donuts, either. Strawberry cream cakes, gourmet maple sweet potato cheesecake, Mississippi Mud brownies and jumbo cookies are all a part of their bakery menu, with additional items popping up each week. Robin says, “we started the bakery about three years ago. We started with all homemade bakery, and that’s a big job, that’s it’s own business right there.”
Showcase Meats has a multitude of offerings at competitive prices. Be sure to look for their daily specials on hot food (the $3.50 pulled pork sandwich on Mondays sounds particularly appetizing) or simply stop in and grab a quick snack. Either way, you won’t go hungry.
Showcase Meats is currently open seven days a week from 11 am to 7 pm at 2355 Manchester Rd. Reach them at (330) 753-4219, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instragram @showcase_meats or on Facebook.
Nic is a freelance writer and food fanatic. When not writing, he teaches English composition and plays in various rock and/or roll bands. You can contact him on Instagram @sewerfuneral.