Sausage maker’s family traditions help build strong downtown network

Video by Jordan Frakes

While today’s economy wreaks havoc on some businesses in downtown Phoenix, one local meat producer stays busier than ever.

Schreiner’s Fine Sausage, located on the corner of North 7th Street and East Whitton Avenue, opened its rustic wooden shop over half of a century ago. The company still uses the same barnyard red and white building to sell its retail products, along with another, larger building to bone, cut and grind the meat for wholesale.

The owner, Nancy Schiller, said her strategy to keeping business booming is pretty simple.

“It’s all about the dedication and hard work,” Schiller said, gesturing toward the team of apron-wearing workers grinding and stuffing meat in the next room. “Basically, what goes around comes around. If people like what you do and you work hard, it’ll come back around to you.”

Hugo Schreiner began the business in 1955 using traditional German recipes passed down through generations of sausage makers. Schiller said her husband, Gary Schiller, began picking up shifts after school at the age of 13, eventually taking over the business while still in his third year of college.

Schiller’s husband ran the company for 46 years before he passed away, but his wife’s hard work keeps the business alive.

“(My husband) had cancer and he worked as much as I did, so when he passed, that was pretty difficult,” Schiller said. “And not just for me, but for the customers and employees, it was really hard,” she added, glancing in the direction of her hardworking team.

Despite the trials she had to overcome, Schiller said she continued to supply her customers with high quality meat at the best prices possible. Schreiner’s Fine Sausage provides for several local hot spots in Phoenix, including Pizzeria Bianco, Matt’s Big Breakfast, Rose & Crown Pub, the Short Leash hot-dog food truck and numerous others.

Schiller said the company still uses some of the original recipes from when it started. The small staff of 10 workers complements Schreiner’s traditional, small business style.

“Everyone here is either family, or they’ve been here so long they are like family,” Schiller added with a laugh.

Photos by Evie Carpenter

Family traditions play an enormous role in the business, Schiller said. These traditions contribute to her sense of gratification in the work she does, helping to keep the company going year after year.

“The best part of the business is we’re always making someone happy,” Schiller said. “Sausage is such a traditional product in many families, and food in general just brings people together.”

Schreiner’s prices also bring happiness to customers. People constantly comment on how reasonable her prices are compared to those in the supermarket delis, Schiller said.

Robert Tutlewski, chef at Pane Bianco, has used Schreiner’s sausages in his market sandwiches since the restaurant opened in 2004. He appreciates the traditional style of Schreiner’s Fine Sausage, he said.

“They have great products and they are family-owned, which you don’t see much of anymore,” Tutlewski said. “(Schreiner’s) is a great artisan company that keeps butchery alive.”

Manny Valdez, kitchen manager at Rose & Crown Pub, said customers give “raving reviews” to the restaurant’s bangers and mash, which features English sausages from Schreiner’s piled on top of mashed potatoes.

“Our customers have always been satisfied with the sausages from Schreiner’s,” Valdez said. “They are just a great company overall, and a great part of Phoenix with good people who run the business.”

Brad Moore, owner of Short Leash, said he uses Schreiner’s sausages for every product except the veggie dog, and the company’s quality satisfies even his most health-conscious customers.

“Everything is preservative and nitrate-free, so it’s a great healthy option,” Moore said.

He also added that Schreiner’s familiar name gets customers excited when they see that Short Leash uses their products.

“Now and then we will get someone who has never heard of (Schreiner’s),” Moore added. “But when they try it, nine out of 10 times, they’re sold.”

Philip Thorneycroft, a cashier at the Phoenix Public Market, said he eats Short Leash’s “Dog of the Week” almost every week because the price is right and it helps keep businesses going in Arizona.

“I’m definitely huge into local businesses supporting one another,” Thorneycroft said. “The local businesses keep money in Arizona and help create more jobs.”

Plus, he said the dogs taste “damn good.”

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