(Enjoy this preview of the February 2020 Independent Processor cover story on Salumi Chicago.)
Several years ago, Independent Processor wrote about West Loop Salumi, a high-end charcuterie business that provided fine Chicago restaurants with coppa, pancetta and ‘nduja. Greg Laketek, the founder of the company, had received his training in Parma, Italy, and his Old World-inspired products were a hit.
Sadly, the business did not last. The company’s location, on Randolph Street in downtown Chicago, was small and suffered inventory-destroying floods. There were problems behind the scenes with Laketek and his partners as well. Things happen in business. Sometimes a great idea or a great product falls victim to bad luck or bad timing.
The happy ending to this story is that Laketek’s craftsmanship has resurfaced, in a new location with a more stable business arrangement. Now operating as Salumi Chicago, Laketek works inside Moesle Meat Co. Moesle had been recently acquired by Joel Janecek, and he was introduced to Laketek by a mutual connection. Though Moesle Meats is mainly a pork wholesaler, Janecek had the space in his facility to add on a charcuterie operation. Just as importantly, he had all of the USDA certifications that allowed Laketek to resume his work.
“It’s a clean slate, and I have a partner that’s in it working with me instead of against me,” Laketek says.
When West Loop Salumi closed, he thought his time in the meat industry had come to a close. “I thought, we had a great run with salami, it was a lot of fun and would be a fun story to tell. I started looking for other jobs,” he said.
Instead, he connected with Janecek, who worked in the finance industry until he learned about Moesle Meats. The company dated back to the 1940s, and the children of the founder were looking to sell their business.
“I started talking to them, and it took almost 8 or 9 months to convince them to sell their business to me,” Janecek says.
He says that the first step was modernizing the plant’s paper-based inventory system and adding automation where possible. Then he started taking stock of what the company had and how to grow it further. That chance meeting with Leketek gave him an opportunity to add an exciting facet to the business.
“I had capacity in my system,” Janecek says. “If you’re trying to launch a business and a product line that takes time, then having capacity is a beautiful thing because we’re able to buffer people over until we can build up enough business, for Salumi Chicago to support itself. We’re finally at that place a year and a half later.”
Converting the empty rooms into processing and drying areas for Salumi Chicago took time and was not without its delays and problems. Once the business was up and running, word spread quickly. Numerous opportunities have come its way, including large private-label customers and branded retail items. Projects that were much too large for West Loop Salumi to even consider are now doable.
(Check out the February issue of Independent Processor for more information about Salumi Chicago.)