EVANSTON — After about 27 years in business, Dave Newsome is preparing to close the doors of Dave’s Custom Meats.
Dave lost his wife, Ginger, to cancer earlier this year and has been struggling to continue ever since. The couple had already been talking about retiring, but Dave is now faced with selling the equipment and the last of his wares and packing up to retire without Ginger by his side.
It is proving to be harder than he hoped to get the business packed up and sold, though; in addition to people looking for super cheap deals (he said someone offered $10,000 for equipment Dave calculated is worth $62,000 and is asking $40,000 for), he said there have been thefts as well. Over the past couple of weeks, he said, two stainless steel racks, a shelf, a table and around 10 sheets of particleboard have been taken from his shop.
He is hoping that there are no more thefts and that the items are returned or paid for, but in the meantime Dave is trying to sell his equipment and close up up shop by the end of August or early September.
“I started out trying to sell the whole business as a building, but it had to be relocated because my landlord won’t lease it out to anybody else,” Dave said. “... We’re giving it away as it is.”
He also has a lot of Christmas decorations and miscellaneous things for sale.
Dave’s Meats has a long, rich history in Evanston, starting as a tiny business selling wild game in two motel rooms at The Last Outpost, which Dave managed for 19 years.
He started working in the area at the age of 13, washing dishes at the Whirl Inn.
“By the time I was ... barely turning 14, really wasn’t supposed to be working yet … they started me out cooking, making a dollar an hour,” he remembered.
A few years down the road, he started up a tiny meat shop in two motel rooms. He and Ginger started with wild game, then started adding beef and finally realized they needed to upgrade their location to fit their size and needs.
Dave’s family already had history with the building he is in now, as his dad and uncle rented it from Otto Kennedy from 1960-1970. By the time Dave was looking for a new location, Ruth Kennedy O’Hara had inherited it from her father and was willing to rent it to him for a low rent as long as he took care of the repairs.
For about four or five years, it had been a convenience store, but the people who had it left it in terrible condition.
“All the water lines were broken in here and the toilets were broken in here,” he said. “Everything was broken in here. So it was ground up again from scratch.”
He had to pay about $25,000 for the building power and a swamp cooler, among many other things — but he said the rent was very low at $500 per month, and it has stayed that way ever since. In fact, his utilities have often been higher than the rent.
“When I had everything running, my electric bill was $1,200 a month,” he said.
For a long time, though, Dave’s Custom Meats was a thriving business.
“It used to be a really profitable business until the oil field went out,” Dave said. “... Chevron would call me up and say, ‘I need 250 8-pound prime ribs for Christmas ... or Elkhorn would call and say, ‘I need 250 steaks.’ It was just like that all the time, you know.”
The business also changed focus when it switched out wild game for catering about 15 years in. In addition to helping the business, Dave said the catering helped get him and Ginger through their health issues. Dave said he had 13 surgeries in 19 years, with work-related injuries and everything else.
Among other things, he had to have two knee replacements on the same knee (the first one failed and had to be redone the following year) and he once broke and dislocated his ankle.
Dave was also injured when someone trying to help him with hang beef knocked down a heavy roller onto Dave’s hand.
“And the doctors up here told me that it was carpal tunnel or it was a cyst, so we get down to Park City and they said, ‘No, it’s broken. It’s been broken a long time…’” Dave said, showing his hand. “It was broken for two years, so they had to go in and take this bone out, fuse these together.”
In fact, his hand was fixed at the same time he was having his second knee replacement.
There is also a knife framed on the wall in memory of an accident that could have killed him. Dave pointed out a line on the knife about an inch from the handle, saying that the knife went into his stomach up to that line when he was butchering a pig.
“I drove myself to the hospital and duct-taped bar towels on me, and the next thing I knew, I was in emergency surgery because I cut an artery,” he said.
The years have taken their toll on him.
“I used to be able to cut three beef in a day, and now I’m lucky if I get half done, and I gotta sit down to do it,” he said.
Stiffer, tired and now grief-stricken, Dave hopes to be able to sell the rest of his stuff and finally retire and rest.