Lorigo’s Meating Place: Family-Run and Community-Focused

Like many of Buffalo’s smaller businesses, Lorigo’s Meating Place is family-owned and -operated. The store, located on the West Side’s main thoroughfare, Grant Street, features groceries, a wholesale business and a fresh meat market with homemade sausage in a variety of recipes and flavors.

Vincent Lorigo is the third generation of Lorigo men to work in the operation, which has moved and morphed over the decades.

“My grandfather founded it back around the 1930s, as a grocery store,” says Lorigo, who is 57. “I remember huge tables with bananas, and big bags of rice. My father was the one who introduced meat into the mix.”

In the early 1970s, the original store closed. A move “uptown,” to Hoyt and Delavan, took place. Soon thereafter, the store, in its current iteration, was born. The Meating Place has been a West Side staple since 1975.

“My father, Jimmy, now runs the wholesale side of our business,” says Lorigo. “We supply a lot of restaurants and pizzerias.” The telltale sign when you walk the store’s aisles are the jumbo cans of products like tomato sauce. In the trade, they’re known as “#10” size.

Lorigo himself is the meat man, a skill that he says came easily to him, and which, once picked up, he never put down. “I’ve been in the business with my father since I was about 14,” he says. “I had the knife in my hand. We had journeymen butchers who taught me how to properly cut, break and display meat. They only had to show me once.”

“And,” continues Lorigo, “my younger brother, Joseph, has taken over the grocery side of the store.” A walk through the shop reveals both standard items and ingredients specific to the needs of the ever-changing neighborhood.

“Through the store and the items we stock, we try to interact with the neighborhood,” says Lorigo. “So we carry items that our Latino customers want, and also those that Burmese people or those from African countries might ask for or seek. You have to go with what your clientele wants.”

The store also, of course, still stocks items that Italian families like his own might be in the market for. “I’ve been on the West Side all my life, from when it was predominantly Italian,” he says. “I’ve grown with it—I welcome all nationalities. The neighborhood is such a melting pot.”

Lorigo has seen economic changes throughout the years. “Back in the 1960s, Grant Street was so packed you couldn’t walk the sidewalks or drive on the streets. Right now, with everything that’s going on in Western New York, I think we can only grow. There’s a lot of opportunity for everyone, on this block and in this area, to grow with the city. We will make a full recovery.”

Lorigo looks at his business practically; it was instilled in him that “work is what you do. You put food on the table, keep a roof over your family’s head.” The store employs around 25 people.

The family’s sausage recipes also arose from a basic need. “My father developed his recipe in the 1950s, when he couldn’t find a sausage that he liked,” says Lorigo. “I haven’t changed a single thing about it. We also make chicken sausage, chorizo, andouille, Greek sausage…our Polish sausage is made by our in-house meat-processor—he uses his family’s recipe.”

Being responsive to customers and the neighborhood, and feeling hopeful about the future aren’t enough to improve life for everyone, Lorigo agrees.

“In order for everyone to reap the benefits of the ‘Buffalo boom,’ you have to develop the heart of the city,” he asserts. “From that downtown success, it will evolve and spread. The country’s next president has to work on positioning and preparing people for employment.”

“Not everyone is handy with computers; we can’t all be in the medical profession,” he sums up. “We’ll need people to work in the service sector, for example. Buffalo—and the rest of the world—won’t go back to the industrial age; machines and electronics have taken over many occupations that people once did. So, in a communal and collaborative effort, we have to find and create other skills for people. The bottom line is that people have to have a purpose.”

For Lorigo, his purpose is clearly written—by his heritage, his commitment, his beliefs and his actions.

Jana Eisenberg is a Buffalo-based writer and editor.