Last month, Leeway Franks celebrated its third year in the sausage and snack bar business in Lawrence.
This month, owners Lee and K Meisel have announced plans to open Leeway Butcher just one door down from their restaurant in the Hillcrest Shopping Center.
“Our landlord knew we were interested in expanding, so when the Southern Style Beauty Supply space opened up, we knew it was our opportunity to open our own butcher shop,” says K.
The couple made a name for themselves quickly when they opened their popular little lunch and dinner spot in July 2015, serving handmade sausages and hand-ground beef in a variety of comforting and creative sandwiches and all-American favorites.
With limited kitchen space in their original shop, it was very difficult – almost impossible – to break down a side of beef or even a whole hog. “We also wanted to expand our brand, and get our name out there by selling our sausages to other restaurants and chefs around town,” Lee says. “Now, with the butcher shop, we will be able to start our wholesale business.”
In high school, Lee got his first taste of butchering by making sausage for a small town butcher shop in North Dakota, which he says helped to develop his work ethic. After graduating from Haskell Indian Nations University in 2008 with a degree in business administration, Lee could not stay away from the trade and was eventually hired as the in-house butcher at 715 Restaurant on Massachusetts Street, and then at The Merc, before deciding to open up his first sausage and sandwich shop, Leeway Franks.
Lee has already started construction on his latest venture, the soon-to-open butcher shop. At the space, a new side patio will be enclosed and will allow him to keep his smoker and grill outside under lock and key. Inside, a giant walk-in cooler will be in one corner, leaving a large area for breaking down whole animals, plus sausage production. In the front of the shop a shiny glass case will be filled with eight to 10 different sausages including smoky and spicy options, fan favorites and seasonal flavors, in addition to traditional currywurst, knockwurt, Polish sausage and breakfast sausage.
Pork, poultry, lamb, goat and whole rabbit will be set in the case whole so that they can be cut to a customer’s specifications. Lee also plans to offer special order items like prime rib for the holidays, along with fresh turkeys at Thanksgiving.
At the butcher shop, Lee will be able to do custom processing and create butcher’s bundles for customers to purchase and take home. These bundles give him the ability to show people a wide variety of different cuts, as well as how to prepare them at home. “It is easy to sell someone a sausage, and we are always happy to do that, but I am also looking forward to building long-term relationships with my customers to be able to also sell them some new or unusual cuts and talk to them about how to use them,” says Lee.
Having his own space will also allow him to highlight the local farmers and ranchers that he has been working with for several years. There will be pork from Santa Fe Trails Meats in Overbrook, Kansas; beef from Creekstone Farms in Arkansas City, Kansas; lamb from Central Grazing Company in Lawrence, Kansas; rabbits from The Rare Hare Barn in Leon, Kansas; goat from Shannon Creek Farm in Olsburg, Kansas; and chickens from Red Bird Farms in Englewood, Colorado. Trim for his sausages will come from Meat LLC by Michael Beard in Lawrence.
The couple will be moving Leeway Franks general manager Melissa Ridder over to run the butcher shop when it opens to help continue to grow her culinary skills around butchering whole animals. In addition, they are also looking to take on a few new apprentices to work in the butcher shop. “We would like to have the butcher shop open this fall to take advantage of what is left of the football season and before the holidays,” says Lee.
Once, they get the butcher shop up and running, Lee says he is thinking about bringing back his breakfast hours on Sunday mornings at Leeway Franks. “Lawrence is crazy about brunch, and with both places open, we are thinking we will have enough help to offer our popular Sunday brunch menu,” he says.
Leeway Butcher will be open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 6pm and Thursday from 8am to 8pm. The shop will be closed Sunday and Monday.
Leeway Butcher, 935 Iowa St., Suite #9, Lawrence, Kansas, 785.856.0890, leewayfranks.com