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Family's sausage business a hit at farmers markets

March 21, 2014

It's one thing to serve your friends homemade sausages at a backyard cookout or, as South African native Matthew Devan would call it, a braai. (Think 'time,' as in, "It's Braai Time.")

It's another thing entirely to serve those sausages citywide.

But, with some encouragement from his wife, Wendi — and the support of scores of customers at the Tosa Farmers Market and, more recently, Metcalfe's Market — the Devans have done just that.

For Matthew, a butcher's son who expected to inherit his father's business, starting his own sausage-making operation might seem as natural as a casing. But, it's a move Matthew was reluctant to make.

"Wendi was always on my case, saying we should get this out. And I would always think of a hundred reasons not to do it. Eventually, after many, many, many years, I decided last year that I would give it a shot."

Matthew, 35, hasn't quite been able to quit his job at Pritzlaff Meats, which produces the Devans' Boerewors. And Wendi, 34, is still working in corporate retail. But, so far, their risk seems to be paying off.

At their first farmers market appearance last summer, the Devans sold out of sausage (about 100 pounds worth) in less than 90 minutes.

"I thought it was a fluke. I thought the farmers market wasn't going to happen again, but it just snowballed," Matthew said.

Since then, the Devans have not only sold sausages at the market, but they also recently released a breakfast sausage at Metcalfe's Market.

"I've become a firm believer in 'things happen for a reason.' And I've asked Matthew, 'Did you ever wonder why you married a girl from Milwaukee, beer and sausage capital of America?'" teased Wendi, who met Matthew while studying in Ireland and married him eight months later.

After 10 years together, Wendi is happy to work side-by-side with Matthew on SA Braai — the name is a nod to Matthew's South African roots — rising at 5 a.m., working late into the night, manning the booth at the farmers market.

"I've always known how talented he is. The things Matthew knows how to do — the profession is obsolete in America," said Wendi, whose own connections to the butcher trade go back generations; her great-grandfather owned a shop in Milwaukee.

As they look ahead to this year's farmers market, the Devans hope they can grow their business into something that can last for generations to come, starting perhaps with their 4-year-old son, Liam.

"He's a mini me," Matthew said.

"He even pulls out his grill and says he's going to play farmers market. And he eats all our samples," Wendi laughed.

JUST THE FACTS

BUSINESS: SA Braai

WEB: SABraaiTime.com

PHONE: (414) 736-1340

OWNER: Matthew and Wendi Devan

INCORPORATED: 2013

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