Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The End of an Escondido Landmark

Talone’s Meat Market


The End of an Escondido Landmark - Talone's Meat Market

Back in 1978, Opa built Oma their first Home in Escondido, California. It was a very functional and cute two-thousand square foot single-story family home on Metcalf Street. I remember the date of our move-in because it was just a few days before the birth of my youngest son.

Our Home Sweet Home in Escondido California
We all loved the twenty-two years we nurtured in that home. One of our joys was the proximity of its location. The boys would get up early and ride their bikes two blocks to the corner donut shop to pick up goodies for Sunday morning.

I was also delighted to purchase our meat from an Escondido historical icon, Talone’s Meat Market, which was a mere four blocks from our home.

Standing since the Great Depression, Talone's was one of the last slaughterhouses in San Diego County. Not only would it sell you an animal that they'll slaughter, they would also butcher an animal you've been fattening up on your farm.

Located in the shadow of the I-15/Highway 78 interchange along North Hale Avenue, the slaughter operation is located in the rear of the complex. Out front, the Talone's Meat Market, a convenience-style store would sell customers various cuts of meats and other groceries.

The End of an Escondido Landmark - Talone's Meat MarketI did not know that the Meat Market has a different owner from the slaughterhouse. And just to make the ownership structure more confusing, a separately owned wholesale produce and fruit company, Eduardo Produce, is situated in the middle. All three businesses have different owners, yet they all lease their facilities from another fourth person based in the Los Angeles area and owns the land and buildings.

But I digress into the boring part of the markets history.

What follows is the stores history as chronicled in a Union Tribune article dated August 28, 2011:

The slaughterhouse, which is inspected several times a month by the state agriculture agency for cleanliness and proper certification of its butchers and other animal handlers, is owned by Escondido businessman Eric de Jong and his brother, Johnnie de Jong, a hog farmer from Ontario who hauls pigs to this and other slaughterhouses scattered throughout Southern California.

De Jong has deep roots in the local agriculture scene. His father's side of the family immigrated from the Netherlands in 1949, settling in Escondido and North San Diego County. Besides owning the Escondido businesses of Diamond Environmental Services and Palomar Mountain Spring Water, de Jong has family connections to the landmark Hollandia Dairy in San Marcos.

In many ways, the history of Talone's highlights the changing landscape of slaughtering in the United States, and how the industry has moved largely to corporate production lines in Central California, or to beef packer and pork processor IBP Inc. in the Midwest ---- the nation’s biggest.

The de Jongs bought Talone's Custom Slaughter a decade ago, after the struggling business had limped along for several years under various owners.

From the late 1960s until the mid-1980s, Talone's changed hands a few times. Verit Industries bought it in 1969. Fullerton-based North County Packing Co. once owned a chunk. Fruit and vegetable wholesaler Eduardo Produce moved into a section of the North Hale Avenue building, where it remains there today.

In 1983, Norwalk shopping center maven Danny Sullivan eventually bought the entire piece of land and building at 559 N. Hale Ave. ---- which includes the slaughterhouse, meat market and produce company ---- because he needed a supply of fresh meat to sell into his family's chain of neighborhood grocery stores in the Los Angeles and Orange County region, according to Sullivan .

Sullivan briefly closed the commercial slaughterhouse in 1994 when he lost a major beef supply contract with the Albertson's supermarket chain. That's also when the Talone's Meat Market ---- which sells cuts of meat, chips, soft drinks, milk, bread and other staples ---- was split off from the slaughterhouse portion of the complex, and sold to someone else, he said.

During this time, the slaughterhouse was briefly leased by an ostrich farmer. "The bottom fell out of that," said Sullivan, who still retains title to the land and buildings.

Talone's got its start 80-plus years ago when Italian brothers Henry and Mario Talone opened a packing house and market at the Hale Avenue site to provide a one-stop shopping venue for anyone who wanted to bring a cow ---- or any other farm animal ---- to be slaughtered, packaged and distributed. Such an operation was federally inspected then. Its state-inspected now, which means it can't sell meat from its slaughterhouse to local food markets ---- like the one at the front of its complex.

Lourdes Sanchez, 39, who sold her homes in Lake Forest and Corona to raise the cash to buy Talone's Meat Market just as the economy turned south four years ago, has never visited the rear of the complex to watch firsthand a pig be slaughtered. It's a gruesome process that involves first killing the animal by firing a "captive bolt pistol," loaded with a slug, into the animal's head.

"It's sad," said Sanchez, who visited the market and slaughterhouse with her mother when she was young and living in Encinitas.

Sanchez has regrets about buying the grocery market because of competition from larger supermarket rivals, and the limp economy. "It's been so hard," she said.

Before the business was carved up, Henry Talone managed the operation and carried the title of CEO while brother Mario traveled to nearby ranches, and into Imperial and Riverside counties, to buy cattle.

The eventual death of the Talone brothers, the ebb and flow of economic turmoil over the years, and other factors led to a greatly downsized operation. As populations shifted, consumer preferences also changed on who shops there.

Eric de Jong revived the slaughterhouse when he bought the operation in 2001, but downsized it from a commercial operation to a "custom slaughterhouse."

The slaughterhouse draws a wide range of ethnic customers, including some from Middle Eastern cultures, Muslims, Filipinos, and others who see the custom slaughterhouse as the place to go for their fresh meat.

"We've got a luau (Hawaiian feast) event. I pick up the pigs every once in a while," said Carlsbad resident Mike Aubuchon, an assistant brewer with Pizza Port Brewing Co. in Solana Beach.

Customers order fresh meat for family-sized orders, or to serve at luaus or parties.

De Jong said the Great Recession has cut into his business. There was a time the slaughterhouse had hundreds of animals waiting to be processed. Today, a steady flow of customers order the slaughter of about 75 pigs and other farm animals per week.

"We do not draw a traditional American clientele that goes to Albertsons or Vons," said de Jong, who said the business has adjusted to the tough economy by slaughtering only Thursday through Saturday. "We make a profit. It's just not as good. We aren't going anywhere."

The End of an Escondido Landmark - Talone's Meat Market

Unfortunately, de Jong was incorrect. Oma regales the past of the Talone’s Meat Market because she was recently saddened to see the Market boarded up and empty. Graffiti insults buildings that once housed North County’s last slaughterhouse.

Talone’s will soon be demolished after two re studies determined they have no historical significance, despite being more than 70 years old. Talone’s might not be historical to the City of Escondido, however, it was so to the Smith family. It will be interesting to see what replaces this meat-packing company.

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