Longtime Cape meat shop will close doors in September

Thursday, June 28, 2007
Blake Esicar prepared sliced bacon for a customer Wednesday at Esicar's Old Hickory Smokehouse. The shop, which has been in business since 1934 and in its current location since 1951, will close its doors at the end of September. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

In September, Cape Girardeau will lose a business institution that has left a lasting impression on taste buds across the nation and around the world.

Esicar's Old Hickory Smokehouse, 1157 N. Kingshighway, will close sometime after Labor Day, Blake Esicar said Wednesday. But until then, the traditional style hams, bacon and sausages will be available for those seeking a last taste.

The decision is a painful one, Esicar said. Esicar's has been in business in Cape Girardeau since 1934 and has been housed at its current location since 1951.

"It just seemed like this was a good time," he said. "In July we have to start getting ready for Christmas, and we made the choice not to go through one more Christmas. Everything in the building is getting old. Even the employees are getting old, and it is just time to do it."

Blake Esicar is the third generation of his family to run the business. At 56, he said, he'd rather not go through the difficulties of preparing 2,000 hams and 4,000 slabs of bacon for shipping at Christmas.

Scott Koch, an employee of 21 years at Esicar's Old Hickory Smokehouse, removes the casing from a hard summer sausage before slicing it for a customer. (AARON EISENHAUER ~aeisenhauer@semissourian.com)

Esicar's began as a grocery and meat market founded at 411 Broadway by Edgar A. Esicar. He moved to Cape Girardeau in 1931 as an employee of the A&P Co. He bought the old William L. Meyer meat market three years later and began developing the specialty meat business. The building on North Kingshighway was designed with a smokehouse that is still in use.

One display in the store is covered with envelopes from across the country and overseas with the company name spelled in almost every imaginable manner. Sometimes, like on the letter addressed to Bacon, Cape Girardeau, the name wasn't necessary for the post office to know where to make the delivery.

In April 1988, "Piggy," the concrete hog that adorned the front lawn of the store, was stolen by a college fraternity and taken on a 32-day adventure that included trips to St. Louis and Illinois. In September that same year, two new concrete pigs were put on display and the female of the pair, dressed in a ruffled dress, was stolen six days later.

There are no signs on the Esicar's building announcing the coming end. Esicar said he's included a few fliers in orders set for shipping and informed a few customers of the decision to close. Some people have put in large orders to fill their freezers, he said. Bacon, for example, will keep for about a year in a deep freeze, he said.

Business was steady late Wednesday afternoon as regular customers stopped in. Jane Twaddell purchased "hillbilly bacon," made from lean pork shoulder. "It has a good flavor. My favorite meal in the whole world is a BLT, and I've got to have lean bacon."

Jan Halter, Blake Esicar's sister, was helping behind the counter Wednesday and said she's sad the business will close but understands the decision. "I just hate it when tradition changes," she said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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