Ever wonder how Usinger's makes that delicious sausage? We sure did. All our
questions were answered recently with an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of
the home of the Usinger "wurstmachers," which is still located on Milwaukee's
Old World Third Street (1030 N. Old World Third St.), the site of the original
store that opened in 1880.
To Milwaukeeans, Usinger's means quality, comfort, tradition and great sausage.
Oscar who? In Milwaukee, it's Usinger's or nothing.
The Usinger Family success story is the classic American Dream. In the late
1870s, a young German immigrant, Fred Usinger, arrived in Milwaukee with $400
in cash and his favorite sausage recipes, which he had learned as an apprentice
"wurstmacher" (sausage maker) in Frankfurt. He had ambition, dreams of a better
life and the willingness to work hard for it. He went to work for Mrs. Julia
Gaertner, a widow who operated a small butcher shop on 3rd St. Within a year
or so, Usinger had bought out Mrs. Gaertner, married her niece, Louise, and
moved into living quarters above the store. The young couple worked 16-18 hours
a day making and selling their sausage.
At the turn of the century, Milwaukee's German aristocracy did their shopping
on Third St., and the store soon became a popular stop. Before long, the Usingers
were shipping sausage as far away as New York. While business became so good
that more help was needed, Fred Usinger kept the growth under control so he
could oversee each step of the sausage making process.
Founder Fred Usinger died in 1930. His legacy, however, lives on. The history
of the company, which spans more than a century, shows that there has always
been a Usinger to guide it.
Today, fourth generation Usingers lead the firm (including Fritz and Deb, whom
we have to thank for the tour and wonderful lunch) confidently into the future,
ever mindful of their heritage of quality, which must be maintained. "America's
Finest Sausage" is more than a slogan -- it is an ideal, a family pledge that
Usinger's will continue to make only the very best.
Once inside the Usingers factory, one understands the tradition and family
heritage the business is built upon. Fritz carefully oversees production of
the hand-made specialties at Usinger's, from the initial stages, through smoking,
packing and shipping.
Photos and historical relics adorn the staircases and even though the factory,
itself, has the modern luxuries and technology of today, the original ovens,
recipes and elves still remain. Elves? Yep, elves. The Usinger elves have been
making the sausage since the 1880s. You may never see them, but you definitely
feel their presence when you tour the factory and taste their old-fashioned
goodness (Deb says she spent much of her childhood in search of the elves but
still has never stumbled across one).
A trip to the Usinger's store is well worth your while. The store has all the
original trimmings and architecture, and it's the only place in town to get
Usinger's famous gift boxes. The store is open Mon-Sat., 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
You won't be able to tour the factory, but we've captured that for you in pictures
anyway. Read on for our exclusive photo tour of a Milwaukee institution, Usinger's
Famous Sausage. And don't forget to call (414) 276-9100 or (800) 558-9998 to
place your orders.
A miniature village in the window of the Usinger's Store. Designed by
architect Hugh Hirsch.
View of the deli counter, looking much the way it did generations ago.
Another view inside the store.
The Usinger's elves are a part of the company's history. Deb Usinger
used to look for them under every nook and cranny as a child.
A view of the factory floor.
The art of sausage making in action.
OMC staff writer Bobby Tanzilo enjoys Milwaukee's finest sausages.
Lunch is served!
May I help you?
Jeff and Andy, ready for the tour.
Jeff and Bobby can't resist one more photo wearing those hats.
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