McKeesport fixture Lampert's Market relocates within city
When Rick and Jan Kugler locked up Lampert's Market on Saturday, they closed the door on 80 years of grocery and butcher service in McKeesport's Grandview neighborhood.
And despite the sadness and nostalgic feelings that come with ending a chapter of their lives, the Kuglers are turning the page. They are relocating their butcher shop to the Eden Park Boulevard deli and convenience store that became part of their business plan just a few years ago.
“It's so bittersweet leaving the neighborhood,” Jan Kugler said. “It's such a part of history in the city.”
Monday marks the opening day of a revitalized Lampert's Fine Meats and Deli — what the Kugler's hope will be a lasting store at 2010 Eden Park Blvd. that will feature the best of both locations for decades to come.
“This was the best decision we could make — the best for us and the best for our customers,” Jan Kugler said.
“One should complement the other,” Rick Kugler said, finishing his wife's thought. “I'm so excited, but I'm scared. I just want it to do well, and it should. Our customers can find everything they want in one spot, and it will stop our running back and forth numerous times each day.”
McKeesport natives, the Kuglers stayed true to their roots when they took over the business in 1993.
The Lampert family opened the market in the early 1930s and operated it until 1981, when Rick's parents purchased it — name and all. At that time, it still was one of many neighborhood grocers within McKeesport's city limits.
“When Lampert's opened, every corner had a butcher shop,” Rick Kugler said. “Now, we're a dying breed. We do everything to order — cut to order, wrapped to order.”
Not only are Lampert's orders prepared as they are placed, it's all done where the customer can see.
“Everything we do, as far as the fresh-cut meats and everything we cook in the deli, is right out in the open,” Jan Kugler said. “We don't hide anything.”
Rick Kugler is there cutting a variety of steaks, roasts and chops for customers when he's not busy making fresh sausages and tending to a smokehouse where he makes jerky, beef sticks and kielbasa.
“No one around here does it themselves — not for miles that I know of,” he said. “Smoking our own meats, we can control the product better. It's a personal quality. There's a big difference between someone who is hands-on and cares about what they're doing, as opposed to someone who's just doing a job.”
The Kugler family added Hungarian items including kolbasz, paprika bacon and hurka to Lampert's Polish selections that already were favorites in the neighborhood.
It's that traditional, ethnic style of butcher-and-deli service that's kept generations of customers coming through their door for decades.
Like many of their customers, the Kuglers have raised their own family to love the Grandview Avenue store.
“We have toys there that our kids and grandkids grew up playing with while we worked,” Rick Kugler said. “We still have a little dolly that's been there forever.”
Longtime Lampert's customer Wally Balogh said he would follow the business anywhere, and having it just down the hill won't change his routine much.
“I've been going there since I was 5 years old, and I'm 64 now,” he said. “My family has a lot of nice memories up there. I'd go there as a kid, and now I take my grandkids.”
Balogh is a lifelong Grandview resident. He grew up on Steele Street and raised his family on Calvin Street. His grandchildren visit every Monday and Friday, and they expect a Lampert's visit as part of their schedule.
Balogh said he's excited to change that routine by getting his favorite items at the Eden Park Boulevard location.
The Kuglers said Lampert's Fine Meats and Deli will have everything their customers need. The only things they will cut from their stock are the grocery items that will no longer be necessary with a large grocery store nearby.
Getting the Eden Park Boulevard deli in place was a struggle with four years of planning and site preparation that led to its November 2012 grand opening. It's the site of a former gas station, car repair center and various mini marts.
The Kuglers want neighborhood residents to know the Grandview storefront's new owners will maintain its use as a convenience store.
“They're not stranded,” Jan Kugler said. “They will still be able to walk to the store for their basic needs, like milk and bread.”
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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