Years ago Mom often shopped at Neville’s Superette on Ashmun Street in Sault Ste. Marie, MI especially when her brother, Steve Cottelit, requested short ribs. Uncle Steve lived across the road in the home their father built. Mom prepared the meal in her home, then walked through a forest of pine trees and delivered Uncle Steve’s supper. Such was her tradition for many years. Uncle Steve appreciated her cooking and was adamant about only one thing: The meat had to be purchased from Neville’s.
As many of you know, this market has been in the Soo for many decades. In 1938, Jerry and Margaret Neville opened a small grocery store at the corner of West Spruce and Magazine. At that time, it was traditional for customers to hand their lists to the owners and wait while the proprietors selected the items for them. There was no such thing as pushing a shopping cart through crowded aisles. That came later with the arrival of the Piggly Wiggly supermarket.
While customers waited, they often visited with each other. The store was a great place to meet strangers who eventually became friends. Home delivery or calling ahead for products were conveniences offered by the Neville’s. When Jerry passed away in 1960, Bob and Lou Cook ran the store for Margaret. They purchased it in 1979 and 10 years later Bob’s son, Ed, and his wife, Wendy, bought it. They decided to keep the name “Neville’s Superette” as it was well known and respected in the community. Four years later disaster struck when a fire destroyed the interior, but everybody pitched in and it wasn’t long before the store was up and running again.
Ed and Wendy are the kind of folks who thrive on helping others and providing the best products available. Ed is a master butcher who will cut steaks and roasts to your liking. Whether you’re choosing Chairman Reserve Choice steaks or freshly ground hamburger for the barbeque, the meat will be lean, juicy, and tender. If pork is your choice, you’ll enjoy Indiana Kitchens chops, loins, roasts, or slices of slab bacon. Ed will answer any questions customers have about the best way to prepare their purchases. There’s even a recipe for Roast Beef Au Jus on the back of his business card.
There’s nothing that speaks of home and hearth quite like a Sunday dinner of roast chicken. You can expect the best from Miller Amish Country Poultry. The Cooks own a feed mill in Indiana that assures customers of fresh poultry from healthy chickens. You won’t find artificial ingredients or coloring, only home grown chickens processed one day and in the store’s display case the next.
“We strive to be number one in customer service,” Ed said. “We offer fresh, high quality products and listen to our customers. If they want something special, we do our best to accommodate them.” One way they accomplish this is by offering party platters prepared upon request. Along with a fine assortment of meats and cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables are available. Neville’s is a fully stocked grocery store as well as being a premium meat market.
For a special treat the Cooks recommend trying one of their homemade sausages. “We offer a variety to please every palate,” Ed said. “Customers can choose from mild breakfast, hot or mild Italian, fresh kielbasa, and of course, traditional bratwurst or brats with cheese or jalapeno brats. We also carry smoked flavored salmon and whitefish spread. Fresh and smoked whitefish come straight from the waters of Lake Superior.”
When I visited the store, the aroma of freshly baked bread was too much to resist. As often as twice a day their onsite bread oven is fired up. Once you buy a loaf, you’ll be back for more. I purchased a loaf of unsliced French bread reminiscent of the kind Mom used to buy that came from the Bluebird Bakery in Soo, Ontario. Although I often bake bread, I might start buying loaves from Neville’s. Their bread was delicious, and I didn’t have to fuss for hours trying to make a loaf that might be light and airy or as heavy as a brick.
Ed and Wendy sell many Michigan made products. “Some examples are jams, jellies, pickles, maple syrup, and honey,” Wendy said. “Reasonably priced fresh brown eggs are also available. And for customers who enjoy a glass of wine with their meal, we offer a variety. We carry a large selection from Threefold Winery in the western U.P. Their grapes don’t come from California. They’re grown in Stephenson, a 200 mile drive from the Soo.”
Walking into Neville’s is like walking into a superette of the past. The first thing you notice is the pleasant greeting you’ll receive. If you frequent the store often, you’ll be greeted by name. Many things have changed since the old days when customers handed their list to the clerk behind the counter, but the feeling of being special remains. Care is taken to ensure your shopping experience is a positive one.
“We’re always looking for new ideas and striving to bring as many local products into our store as possible,” Ed explained. “Items come from several different vicinities of the Upper Peninsula and from the local Amish community. We’re firm believers in promoting our farmers, beekeepers, and others who make this area a special place to live. We’d like to thank our customers for their many years of loyal patronage. That means a lot to a small superette like ours. It keeps us going and looking forward to many more years of serving the public.”
Mom and Uncle Steve are both gone now, but the memory of shopping for those short ribs remains. When paired with sauerkraut, they couldn’t be beat. In later years, when I became Uncle Steve’s driver, a trip to town wasn’t complete without a stop at Neville’s. It had been a while since I entered the store, but when I stood in front of the meat counter, all the memories came rushing back. That’s the way it is when people are as thoughtful and welcoming as Ed and Wendy Cook.