“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”
— Pink Floyd, 1979, “Another Brick in The Wall”
SALINA — At 6:30 in the morning, when most of us are asleep or enjoying our first cup of coffee, Drew D’Angelo arrives at Mazzye’s Meats, at 7252 Oswego Road (Route 57) in Salina, to begin preparing the store.
D’Angelo sanitizes the store, fills the cases, and prepares the meat for the day. While there’s much work to be done, his favorite part of the day is just 90 minutes away when he’ll begin interacting with the customers. That’s when his passion for meat and food preparation becomes apparent. Not only does D’Angelo enjoy talking with his customers about specific meats and various cuts of meat, but he also loves to help them understand the best way to prepare the meats. And D’Angelo knows of what he speaks after serving as executive chef for Le Moyne College for more than 18 years.
While he was quite content with his position at Le Moyne, like most entrepreneurs, he aspired for more. D’Angelo also thought if he could do something that he loved and make money doing it, the reward would be worth the risk of leaving the comfort of an environment where he spent much of his professional life. American writer Elbert Hubbard once said, “The greatest mistake in life you can ever make is to continually fear you will ever make one.” With an eye toward retirement, Frank and Dave Mazzye floated the idea of selling their business, Mazzye’s Meats, to D’Angelo during a regular visit to the market two years ago. Mazzye’s Meats was a family-owned business, established in 1979 and specializing in top-quality meats. The seed of opportunity for major changes in D’Angelo’s professional and personal life was planted. And while change may always be scary, what becomes scarier is allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing. With the full support of his wife Sue, Drew decided to make the leap. He has not looked back and couldn’t be happier.
Drew D’Angelo was born in Boston, Massachusetts and acquired his culinary skills as an undergraduate student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Prior to working for Le Moyne, he honed his experience in the food-service industry by working at restaurants, hotels, and country clubs. When I asked Drew what prompted him to consider making a change in his professional life, he told me that when the pandemic struck, the demand for meal preparation in the college cafeterias plummeted since most students were not on campus. As a result, the company he worked for laid off many of his employees. D’Angelo knew if he was ever going to make a change and control his own destiny, he needed to make that change now. He considered purchasing a diner but determined that to be risky. He knew that he missed being actively engaged in food preparation. When the proposal of owning a meat market was presented to him, the thought of becoming the owner never dawned on him. Following several months of back-and-forth negotiations, and with my assistance, D’Angelo was able to finalize the transaction and is now the owner of Mazzye’s Meats. You won’t find his name on the sign out front and he has no intention of changing it as the Mazzye’s Meats brand name has been synonymous with quality products and exceptional customer service for the greater Liverpool area for a long time.
American television writer Andy Rooney once said “Don’t take a butcher’s advice on how to cook meat. If he knew, he’d be a chef.” In this case, D’Angelo is not only a butcher but a chef with extensive knowledge and experience that he’s very happy to share with his customers.
Reflecting on the help he received from the Onondaga Small Business Development Center (SBDC), D’Angelo stressed the importance of creating a business infrastructure that would help him navigate the acquisition and transactions.
“It helped that I spoke with the SBDC first. I realized the magnitude of the decisions I was about to make. They, along with my accountant George Powers, made sure I understood the business financially,” D’Angelo said. “Once the business became mine, the costs to run it became real. They helped me build the infrastructure for the business that I needed. Acquiring this business was an education process for me as well.”
While the meat business is a $103 billion industry, after devoting all his physical and emotional energy to acquiring Mazzye’s, D’Angelo was fearful of the effects the pandemic could have on the industry and his business. Would he be able to survive? Well, Mazzye’s is not just surviving, it’s thriving under Drew’s leadership. He currently employs 10 people and has maintained a family atmosphere that he hopes will perpetuate the retention of existing customers and help create new relationships.
While it is primarily a market that specializes in a wide array of the finest quality meats for customers, Mazzye’s offers convenience-store items as well as basic grocery needs. Additionally, the market offers a version of Utica Greens called “Greens D’Angelo” and is famous for its chicken, turkey, and meat pot pies. Drew wants to maintain a Central New York product line and hopes to expand the kitchen area to allow him to offer catering services in the future.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” D’Angelo feels strongly that this is work worth doing because of the happiness it provides him and his family. Drew routinely works 12-plus hour days. But as I was leaving Mazzye’s, he told me that one of the best things that has occurred because of his acquisition is that “I now sleep very well at night. I couldn’t have done this without the help of you and the SBDC.”
Advisor’s Business Tip: Many businesses have different backstories and circumstances surrounding them. The road to success in business is never an easy one. You’ll experience hardship, obstacles, detractors, and decisions that seem impossible. Listen to the advice from people who’ve been there before to create the necessary organizational infrastructure. But there are common threads tying them together. With hard work, a diverse set of experiences, smart planning, and a great idea you believe in, you can get yourself on the road to success.
Mark Pitonzo is a business advisor at the Onondaga SBDC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org