GRANITE CITY — If you have lived in Granite City any time at all, you know about Cionko’s Meat Market and how its service has built a reputation that is savored nearly as much as its products.
Owners Rudy Miller and Nathan Crane want customers to feel welcome and appreciated by offering old-fashioned butcher values; they’re not willing to sacrifice quality for quantity.
“We do things the old-fashioned way,” Miller said. “We don’t mass produce and we don’t cut corners.”
Cionko’s market receives its meat fresh from a local packing house and grinds its own ground beef, blends its own sausage and creates prepared dishes for easy cooking at home. Some of their best-sellers include Italian roast beef, chicken and pork kabobs and stuffed pork chops.
During the holidays, owners say they are flooded with orders for pre-cooked decorated hams and turkeys.
Cionko’s has evolved over the years, but the main goal has remained the same — to be a family-style business serving the public fresh meat and groceries with a personalized touch.
In 1929, the original owner, Louis Cionko, opened the store at 2901 Madison Ave., where it continues to live today. Cionko and his family lived in the back of the store, an area that has since been renovated to accommodate the office space and additional cooking space. Louis’ son John later took over the family business. John then hired Rudy Miller when Rudy was a 16-year-old in high school. Later, John Jr. took over the business from his father, and he hired Nathan Crane.
“Nathan and I grew up together and have worked together for a long time,” Miller said. “At the end of 2002, John Jr. was ready to retire and asked Nathan and I if we wanted to buy the business, so we did.”
The transition was official in early 2003, and the new owners decided to keep the name intact as it had become such a staple in the city. Crane’s wife, Silynthia, works as store bookkeeper and both of Miller’s daughters have worked for the business on and off over the years.
“We really want to give a big thanks to our customers,” Miller said. “The only reason we are here is because of you — and we value your business. We like to think of our market as a local ‘Cheers’ … you know, ‘Where everybody knows your name.’”
The roots of the market run deep in the community, with many of Cionko’s employees putting in years of loyalty and dedication to the business. Manager Tim Tague has worked for Cionko’s since he was a teenager, and Mike Powell of Granite City has worked for the market since 2009.
“It’s easy-going here and I like what I do,” Powell said. “It’s a fun job. You learn how to cut meat and that’s something not a lot of people can do. Working here over the years, they’ve shown me a lot and I am sort of a jack of all trades.”
The employees say if you are new to purchasing meat at a butcher shop, you should ask a lot of questions so you can get exactly what you need.
Crane said he is a big supporter of giving jobs to locals to support local commerce.
“We like to hire people, young people from our community,” Crane said. “We give young guys jobs and that, in turn supports them and the local area.”
Several other employees make up the team at Cionko’s, including Mike’s brother, Dusty Powell. Ryan Baker and Kevin Hoover serve as meat cutters and Kyrrah McKinney works the checkout lane.