Fischer Meats celebrates 100 years

February 9, 2010

By David Hayes

Chris Cheichi, owner of Fischers Meats, trims fat from more than a dozen porterhouse steaks to put in the display case of the 100-year-old business on Front Street North. By Greg Farrar

Chris Cheichi has known little else in his life than working the business that he loves.

“My uncle owned a grocery store in South Seattle, where I got my start at the meat counter when I was 14,” Cheichi said. “And that’s all I’ve done ever since.”

Forty-four years ago, when Cheichi was just getting his start in the meat industry, Fischer meats had also reached 44 years — serving the Issaquah community.

The two have synched up in 2010 — owner Cheichi is inviting the community to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fischer Meats.

After short stints in sales positions, Cheichi always found himself coming back to the public market, serving up meats of all varieties.

In 1981, an opportunity arose he couldn’t pass up.“I had a cousin who owned a purveying company that sold meat to the Fischer brothers and they told him they were interested in selling,” Cheichi recalled. “My wife, Jacque, and I fell in love with Fischer’s. And the rest, as they say, is history.”

Little remains from the earliest days of Fischer Meats. Brothers Nick and George had already long ago purchased the building next door and incorporated it into their space for one big store by the time Cheichi purchased the business from them.

But look around the store today and there are signs of their lingering legacy. Out front are two meat slicers, the older with ceramic backing and the newer with stainless steel. Cheichi said all of his employees prefer the old-school slicer.

“But I fear someday someone from the health department will come in and confiscate it for some reason,” Cheichi joked.

In back, Cheichi still uses the same band saw used by the Fischer brothers, minus a few new blades over the years, to carve up precision slices of meat.

While Cheichi said the technology of cutting meat really hasn’t changed that much, one nod to the days of yore are the cutting blocks behind the front counters. He explained in the olden days, such blocks would become uneven with use over the years.

“So, they’d bring in planers to carve off the top layer of wood to even them out,” he said.

But to compensate for each layer removed from the top, sections of metal were added to the bottom of the legs to raise the overall height.

“Otherwise, you’d be cutting meat from your knees,” Cheichi said.

Having worn his own fine groove into one of the blocks is John Strecker, Cheichi’s longest tenured employee at 13 years.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” said Strecker, who’s been in the meat business, with brief stints in restaurants, since 1962. “There’s not many of us left.”

Cheichi said the local meat market isn’t truly a dying vocation, but rather more of one that if it isn’t already started up, new ones aren’t likely to pop up. To celebrate the oddity of Issaquah’s community meat market that’s been around now 100 years, Cheichi is turning back the clock.

The Issaquah Press is digging up old advertisements from yesteryear from Fischer’s earlier days. And during limited times and days throughout the year, the store will roll back prices to match the ad.

Cheichi said he can’t help but get nostalgic about carrying on the legacy of Fischer Meats.

“Every time I think about it, it’s pretty cool that it’s been around that long,” he said. “To stay in business, especially in hard economic times, with loyal customers who sustain themselves through it, is a good deal.”

David Hayes: 392-6434, ext. 237, dhayes@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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