Before Balistreri's was Stockinger's, a beloved meat market in Wauwatosa
Family remembers legacy of home-grown business
For those who remember it, Stockinger's Choice Meats was so much more than a meat market. It was a Wauwatosa institution.
Housed where Balistreri's Italian Restaurant is currently located on North 68th Street, near Rose's Flower Shop, Stockinger's provided high quality butchering services to the local community at a time before major grocery stores existed.
Owned and operated by the Stockinger family, the meat market represented generations of Wauwatosans who committed to quality products and community involvement.
"(Stockinger's) came to Wauwatosa with the idea of being the center of the community, and it ended up being that way," said Lura Stockinger, the wife of Jack, one of the market's butchers.
Jacob Stockinger, the family's patriarch, founded the market on the south side of Milwaukee in 1910 before opening its location in Wauwatosa in 1927. Upon Jacob's death in 1946, the market was left to his eldest son, Harold, who they called Harry.
"Everybody knew Harry. He was so much a part of Wauwatosa. You spoke of Harry, you spoke of Wauwatosa. It was all one in the same," said Lura, who is Harry's daughter-in-law.
Under Harry's ownership, Lura remembered Stockinger's as a "brisk business."
On Saturdays, Lura's husband and Harry's son, Jack, would spend the entire day on his feet and would not stop to eat. The market would be swarmed with customers seeking fresh cuts of ham, lamb legs and steak.
"They were never cut before time," said Lura.
Lura said her children remembered different things about the market. Her daughter, Janet, recalled making eye contact with the big eyes of an old fish through the glass case as a girl. The others remember grabbing candy from a bucket that stood in the market's corner. Not much decorated the market's walls beyond a mounted moose head that the Stockinger men had hunted in Canada.
Lura most remembers the store selling what she called "mock chicken legs" that were perfect for her kids to eat. The recipe is a secret to this day, Lura said. She wouldn't even share her speculation of the mock chicken legs' ingredients.
A turn in the business
Stockinger's had a boom in business in the 1950s. Harry even positioned himself to run for mayor of Wauwatosa.
But after Harry had a stroke, and later died, in 1961, "that changed everything," said Lura.
Jack assumed ownership of the market at a time when supermarkets were increasing in popularity. He also had difficulty working on his feet all day, due to an injury he'd sustained while serving as a frogman in World War II — similar to the Navy Seals.
"They decided that they could not satisfy the customer in their accustomed way. Rather than give poor service, they decided to sell the business," said Lura.
Jacob Stockinger and his wife, Martha, had 10 children. Their youngest son, Paul, died in March 2014. Jack had died in 2008.
Decades later, the Stockinger legacy is still very much alive in Lura's memory.
"I'll remember the warm interchange between the people of Wauwatosa and the Stockinger's," said Lura. "People were friendly. There was a camaraderie between Wauwatosa at large and the shop."
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