MORTON — Lennie Meyering and Conor Musselman each was ready to take a quantum leap in his career.
Their paths crossed late last year, and a longtime Morton business changed hands June 1. Lennie's Quality Meat Shop became Musselman Meats.
The switchover has taken place during a pandemic and at a time when meat prices are soaring, but Meyering, 61, and Musselman, 28, are confident Musselman Meats will thrive.
Meyering has retired after a long career in the meat industry.
He began working at Rocke's Meating Haus when he was 12, and he put in time at Thompson's Food Basket and Sullivan's Foods.
Meyering planned to retire in September when he turned 62, mainly because of severe arthritis in both of his thumbs, but the timetable accelerated after Musselman heard through the grapevine that Lennie's Quality Meat Shop was for sale.
"I gave Conor a good deal on the sale because I want the business to keep going," Meyering said. "I'm not going to miss the work. After working 65 hours a week, six days a week, for 15 years, it's time to take some time off and enjoy life. If I do go back to work, it won't be cutting meat.
"I am going to miss my customers," he said. "They're more like close friends. I'm sure Conor will keep them coming back to the shop. He shadowed me, he has his own ideas, and he's continued our Saturday cookouts, which I know people love."
Meyering's wife Donna, who has been employed by Morton Community Bank for more than 40 years, took care of Lennie's Quality Meat Shop's books when Lennie owned the business.
The couple's sons Nick and Adam were among the staff members at the shop.
Longtime customer Peggy Smock of Morton said Lennie's Quality Meat Shop had a family atmosphere.
"Lennie and his staff always provided the highest quality meat and outstanding customer service. The staff became like family over the years," she said. "It was difficult to see Lennie retire. I'm glad to see the new owner plans to carry on Lennie's traditions and legacy."
Musselman also got an early start in the meat business, beginning at age 15 at the IGA grocery store in Mackinaw.
He left the store after being employed there for seven years, but he came back and was the manager of the meat department for two years before buying Meyering's shop.
"I've wanted to own my own business since I was 7," Musselman said. "So this is an exciting time for me."
But the excitement of opening his own business was delayed for a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state's stay-at-home order.
"After waiting a month, I couldn't wait any longer. I had to get started," Musselman said.
"I don't even think about the pandemic. I can't let it affect me," he said. "My focus is to grow my business and have one of the best meat markets in central Illinois. Beef prices are sky high now, but they're dropping. Soon, I'll be able to have the sales I've been waiting to have."
Opening a business isn't the only major life change Musselman is experiencing.
Musselman was home-schooled from fourth through 12th grade while he grew up in Mackinaw.
He enrolled at Illinois Central College two years ago to study to be a dietitian and after struggling academically, he was diagnosed as being dyslexic.
After two years of tutoring, "my world is totally different," he said. "The tutoring has changed my life."
When he reads, Musselman said, "it's like watching a movie with skipping frames. But I've learned ways to overcome that."
Musselman is still an ICC student, and still determined to be a dietitian.
Musselman Meats is at 654 W. Jackson St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
In addition to Musselman, there's one part-time employee at the shop.
For more information on Musselman Meats, visit the business' Facebook page.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.