When the Meadowcroft brothers started making sausages, the pair saw it as little more than a hobby.
Jump to today, and they’re en route to turning their pastime into a business. Still in its start-up phase, their project, dubbed the Local Sausage, will have its first test when it joins the list of vendors serving the Oak Park Microbrew and Food Review.
Scott and Michael Meadowcroft’s foray into the sausage trade began humbly. About a year ago, Scott, who lives in Western Springs, started making sausages from the deer meat his friends were bringing back from hunting trips in northern Illinois.
He charged a cut rate for the service, and the venison continued to come in. Scott was soon joined by his twin brother, Michael, who lives in Oak Park, and within a few months, the task started to feel less like a favor and more like a potentially lucrative operation.
“We both said: ‘We’re making great sausages. Why don’t we start selling these things?’” Michael said.
Because they didn’t have their own certified kitchen where they could make sausages, the brothers started working in facilities at established restaurants and kitchens on off-hours — a business model Scott described as at times feeling like “guerilla warfare.” In the interest of reaching a more general audience, the brothers switched out the deer meat for pork.
In June, Scott and Michael landed a table at the Elmwood Park Farmers Market, where their gourmet fare was well-received. On a whim, the brothers made a call to Seven Generations Ahead, the organization that puts on the annual Oak Park Microbrew and Food Review, to see if they could jump on the bill.
Scheduled to take place on Saturday in downtown Oak Park, the festival hosts 60 Midwest microbreweries and various food vendors, pulling in around 4,000 visitors a year.
As luck would have it, a sausage vendor scheduled to appear at the review had abruptly bowed out, opening up a last minute spot the brothers were eager to fill.
“It was a bit serendipitous,” said Laurie Casey, communications director for Seven Generations Ahead. Casey said the review, now in its seventh year, expects around 4,500 people to attend.
With only a few weeks to go before the fest kicks off, the brothers have their work cut out.
“We’re a company that’s not necessarily prepared to do it, but we’re prepared for the challenge,” Michael said.
Working out of a local restaurant where Scott had once been a pizza chef, the brothers are able to turn out about 40 pounds of sausage on a good day.
When they’re not in the kitchen, the two are scrambling to obtain business licenses and pitch sponsors who they hope will help bankroll the overhead for the festival gig. They recently launched a successful funding campaign on gofundme.com to help cover costs.
With the deadline for that job fast approaching, the brothers have had little time to focus on the long game. Scott said if all goes well, the Local Sausage hopes to open a storefront “before 2016.”
“It’s a conversation that starts next week,” he said.