Tag Archives: butcher

Ken Stoysich

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ken Stoysich can tell a lot about a person based on what type of meat they request while standing at his counter. “When someone asks for a tri-tip steak, I ask them what part of California they’re from. Or if they ask for scrapple, I know they’re from Pennsylvania.” He will further know they’re from eastern Pennsylvania if they want their scrapple made with oatmeal instead of cornmeal.

A lifetime in the butchering business has made Stoysich a bit of an anthropologist as he learned what people like based on where they were raised. A person does not casually gain this type of knowledge by chance. Stoysich started sweeping the floors at his dad’s Stoysich House of Sausage at age 8 and was finally allowed to start learning the art of butchering at age 12. He’s been at it ever since, having taken over the shop around 10 years ago. In fact, it is all he has ever wanted to do. When asked what he would be if he could not be a butcher, his reply was, “Dead.”

KenStoysich1Make no mistake about it; there is a big difference between a butcher and a meat cutter. Stoysich is a bona fide butcher, trained by both his father and the other butchers in the shop as he grew up and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Just because someone stands behind a meat counter and wears a white apron doesn’t mean that person is actually a butcher. He says there is a lot more to it; proper butchering is an art.

“If you want to have some fun, go up to the meat counter at a grocery store and ask for a cut-up chicken. They’ll look at you with a blank stare and then wave toward the case.”

Stoysich explained that the difference between a meat cutter and a butcher is simple: “A meat cutter says, ‘I’ve worked at a packing house and can handle a knife.’ A butcher says, ‘I can take that knife and make you money.’ If someone tells me they’re a butcher I ask them to tell me what an English roast is. If they can’t answer, they’re probably a meat cutter.”

When asked what people get from his shop that they can’t get anywhere else, Stoysich puffed up his chest, smiled, and replied, “Me!”

Omaha’s Amy Riehle says that Stoysich House of Sausage has a solid place in her childhood memories. “Growing up, I’ve always had a love for the place. Every time I walk into the place, the scents of delicious meats take me back to when I would visit with my mom, or when I went to grade school across from the 24th and Bancroft location and would stop in after with friends for snacks. When we go there now, we always go for the Polish sausage, but end up with a lot more. It’s the closest thing to our homemade Polish sausage that we can get.”

“I know butchering has been a dying art for quite a few years,” Stoysich admitted. “A lot of people don’t know how to cook anymore.” He says that foodies will come in and buy things like sweetbreads or ox tails, but for the most part, the practice of making a roast on Sunday and having the meat feed the family until Wednesday is not as common as it once was. Mostly, Stoysich finds himself selling award-winning sausage and steaks.

No matter what his customers crave, it’s likely Stoysich can deliver. “Back in the `70s there was a large group from England at Offutt Air Force Base, and they wanted their bangers and their bacon. This was before the Internet—now you can get any recipe you want. Back then, they were kind of hard to come by. I told them: ‘Give me a recipe, we’ll make it up, and if it tastes right to you, then we’ll just keep it.’ So that’s how we learned to make English bangers and English bacon.”

People visit Stoysich when they want to eat something reminiscent of their homeland, whether it is haggis, or beef hearts, or tongues, or just a great steak. No request is too unusual, he says. “After 50 years, nothing’s really strange—different, but not strange.”

Visit stoysich.com for more information. Omaha Magazine

Mafiosi and Madams

August 29, 2013 by
Photography by The Durham Museum and Julie Shadlow

An insignificant river town doesn’t grow up to be a thriving metropolis without producing its share of unsavory types. Villainous characters and shady stories abound in Omaha, especially in its early days, where men are often very tight and women deemed a trifle loose, according to poet John G. Saxe in 1869. These ain’t your mama’s headlines. Actually, they may have been your grandmother’s.

Political mob boss incites race riot. For 18 years, political boss Tom Dennison carried most of Omaha neatly in his pocket—government, police, and business. The man’s crimes were many, but his most reprehensible may have been inciting the infamous Omaha Race Riot of 1919. After citizens finally elected a non-Dennison man, one Edward Parsons Smith, as mayor in 1918, Dennison henchmen were accused of putting on blackface, assaulting women, and then stirring up crowds, leading to the lynching of black man Will Brown and the near-lynching of Mayor Smith. Smith’s administration was later accused of being ineffectual during the riot. Dennison himself was never found guilty of any involvement, and a key instigator, Dennison henchman Milton Hoffman, fled the state before he could be questioned.

Brothel owner donates building for hospital, receives public outcry. Six months before her death, Anna Wilson, madam of downtown’s Sporting District in the late 1800s, “…closed out her dive and presented the building, with  $75,000, to the city as an emergency hospital,” reads the Lawrence Journal-World on Jan. 16, 1912. Even though it was the second largest gift to charity yet made by an Omahan, city officials and residents balked at accepting the donation of an old brothel. To abate accusations of “tainted money,” Wilson agreed to accept a rent of $125 a month for the rest of her life.

James (Jimmy) Dahlman posing as The Cowboy Mayor of Omaha (courtesy of Durham Museum).

James (Jimmy) Dahlman posing as The Cowboy Mayor of Omaha (courtesy of Durham Museum).

Puppet mayor runs for eighth term. Depending on where you look, James Dahlman was either a heroic figure of Omaha or an unscrupulous politician. He shot and killed his brother-in-law at the age of 22 and was a close ally of political boss Tom Dennison. That alliance led to Dahlman winning three elections in a row, seven altogether. He was filing for an eighth reelection when he passed away. He did fight for and won more autonomy for the Omaha government from the state. Perhaps that desire for doing things by his own rules explains why Dahlman originally refused federal aid after the fatal Omaha Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913.

Saloon owner is key lieutenant in crime ring. William E. Nesselhous, one of Tom Dennison’s bootleggers, owned a saloon called The Budweiser, which served as Dennison’s headquarters. A tiny man with glasses (he was a former jockey), Nesselhous was Dennison’s connector, an adaptable man who managed people easily. He was indicted in 1932 (along with 58 other people) by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to violate prohibition laws.

Child of prominent family stolen! Kidnapper writes book. In the 1880s, Pat Crowe went to work for one of the big four names in Omaha’s meat industry when his butcher shop was bought out by the Cudahy Meatpacking Plant. Edward Cudahy later fired him when he was caught stealing money. Several years later, Crowe kidnapped 16-year-old Edward Cudahy, Jr., in 1900 and received $25,000, the first successful ransom in the United States. This was perhaps due to the cold ransom note, referencing another kidnapping where a boy died because the father refused to pay. “If you don’t give up…you can lead your boy blind the rest of your days,” Crowe’s note threatened, stating he would put acid in the young man’s eyes. Five years later, Crowe was arrested for the crime but acquitted, whereupon he wrote not one but two autobiographies detailing the kidnapping. Crowe’s crime supposedly influenced the famous kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s child.

Respectable wife murders husband in hotel lobby. On Nov. 17, 1888, Eliza Beechler of Chicago followed her husband, Harry W. King, Jr., to the Paxton Hotel at 14th and Farnam streets in Omaha. Beechler had seen a dispatch stating that King had married a Miss Duffy in Kansas City. At the hotel, King insisted Beechler go home, and when she refused, he allegedly replied that she shut her mouth or he would choke her to death. In response, she shot him in the Paxton lobby, killing him and depriving two other women, including one upstairs, of a man they also believed to be their husband.

Louise Vinciquerra, in a photograph dated 1927 provided by great-great-granddaughter Julie Shadlow of Oregon.

Louise Vinciquerra, in a photograph dated 1927 provided by great-great-granddaughter Julie Shadlow.

Phantom Sniper resents being called insane. After being released from the Iowa State Penitentiary for killing cattle, Frank Carter shot a mechanic and a doctor in Omaha and supposedly a railroad detective in Council Bluffs in 1926. Newspapers revealed the victims had been standing next to windows in their homes at night when they were shot. Though convicted of two murders, Carter claimed to have killed 43 people. His lawyers attempted to say he was a paranoiac with an inferiority complex, but Carter disrupted his own defense by shouting, “I’m not a nut! I tell you, I’m not a nut!” He was electrocuted on June 24, 1927.

Cigar store is front for Omaha Mafia boss. Anthony Joseph DiBiase (Tony Biase) was a short, portly man at 5’3 and 160 pounds. What began as small-time bookmaking in his Owl Smoke Shop on 16th Street in the ’40s would become a web of heroin trafficking and connections to New York mafia. In 1960, Biase was sentenced to 15 years for narcotics after his attempt on the life of a partner-turned-informant went wrong. Biase was paroled in 1970 and died in 1991 in South Omaha at nearly 100 years old. He only had one other arrest in between, in 1986.

Bootleg queen’s ex shoots her second husband. Earl Haning was visiting with his ex-wife, Louise Vinciquerra, in her home on July 4, 1933, when he was shot through a screen and killed by her first ex-husband, Sebastiano Vinciquerra. The two men had exchanged fire once before in 1928, while Haning was still married to Louise. Haning had been a prohibition agent in Omaha at the time he was married to Omaha’s Bootleg Queen. Haning was married to one Jessie McCombs when he was shot in his ex-wife’s home.

Shopkeeper butchers friend for $1,500. Ottway Baker killed his coworker, Woolsey Higgins, with two swings of an ax while Higgins slept in their shared room at a grocery on 12th and Farnam streets. Baker then set fire to the shop and shot himself in the arm to cover his tracks, but he was arrested and hanged on Valentine’s Day, 1868. It was the second legal execution in Omaha history and the city’s first ax murder on record.