Cutting it

With
the second generation running the company, brothers Al and Donnie
Cusack fondly recall their time in the family business and look forward
to the future that likely will hold its biggest upheaval in decades.

As
Downtown Oklahoma City creeps south, their shop at 301 S.W. 12th is in
the Core to Shore district, and portions of their property are set to be
part of a public park. They have been in that spot since their father,
Hank, bought the company from his brother in 1948 and moved it from N.E.
Second and Walnut Avenue.

Despite
what the future holds, the brothers have been in talks with the city
and, when they move, plan never to miss a day supplying Certified Angus
Beef products to local, statewide and national clients.

Roy
Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, says
while family-owned businesses aren’t as widespread in years past, those
that remain serve as a community backbone.

“Entrepreneurship
is a true expression of the Oklahoma can-do spirit,” he says. “The
family-owned businesses established in Oklahoma City years ago helped
shape our current successful business climate.”

The
company has been a part of Al and Donnie Cusack’s lives for as long as
they can remember. Their father put them to work at an early age,
helping package items and cleaning the facility.

“As kids, we would come up and work after school and on weekends,” Al Cusack says. “We were constantly doing something.”

As
the 1970s rolled in and the siblings neared graduation from high
school, they each found his strengths in the business and decided to
come on-board full time.

“We didn’t know it was an option to do anything else,” Donnie Cusack says with a laugh.

He
discovered he was a master with a knife and in running the meat-cutting
operation. Al Cusack preferred running the business end, yet both
stayed up on every job in the plant so that, at a moment’s notice,
either could step in.

“When we started, Dad wanted us to know everybody’s job,” Donnie Cusack says. “We started in cleanup.”

In
1974, their father began to step away from the business and slowly sold
stock in Cusack Meats to his sons. When he died a decade ago, they
became sole owners. One of the areas they focused on for growth was the
mail-order business. Based on direct mail and word-of-mouth, they began
to ship meat products around the country, sending a few hundred packages
the first few years. With the advent of the Internet, and requests
increasing nationwide, that business has grown by leaps and bounds.

“This past Christmas, we sent several thousand packages,” Al Cusack says.

About 70% of their business
is in Oklahoma, while the bulk of the other mail orders come from such
states as Illinois, Michigan and Texas. As the products have gained a
wider reach, Cusack Meats has gained a number of fans and loyal
customers, from singer Ted Nugent to coaches Bob Stoops and Eddie
Sutton.

The company
has 18 employees, many who have been there for more than 20 years. One
of them, Kelly Hall, can’t imagine working anyplace else.

“It’s
like a family here,” she says. Looking ahead, Al Cusack says he knows
they will have to make a decision in the coming years as to where they
will be, but there is no question that the business will continue.
Neither brother has plans to retire anytime soon or intends to do
anything differently than each has for more than 40 years.

“This is all I’ve ever known and all I wanted to do,” Al Cusack says. “We still enjoy getting up and coming to work every day.”

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