Last night, as my wife and I sat in our car stopped in the traffic at the Oak Lawn-Lemmon Avenue intersection, I noticed a fellow dressed in a butcher’s apron and ball cap come walking out of the VonGeertsem Butcher Shoppe.
It was about a quarter after 6 p.m., so I figured he was preparing to close up for the night. To my surprise, he walked directly toward my car, holding what looked like a package of meat wrapped in butcher’s paper. It didn’t appear that he was going to lick my window, so I rolled it down a little to see what he had to say. He offered my wife, who was seated on the passenger’s side, the package and said “I’ve got a pound of ground beef here, just for you.”
My wife and I exchanged confused looks. We declined the meat, since we were on our way to the D Magazine company Christmas party and wouldn’t have a chance to refrigerate it anytime soon. The fellow (whom you now see pictured above) smiled and simply said, “All right. Well, come back and see us sometime.” The light changed, and we went on our way before I could ask him whether we were on Candid Camera, or one of thoseÂ ABC News specials that pose as sociological experiments: You’re Offered a Pound of Meat on the Street by a Stranger Dressed as a Butcher. What Would You Do?
Well, today I called the shop just to see what the what was going on.
The fellow’s name is Greg Geert. If I told you that he’s an ex-con, you’d probably be less likely to accept the package if you’d been in my shoes/car. But then I’d tell you to read this short D Magazine piece from 2007 about the guy and his shop, and you’d probably be more than willing to accept the gift.
Geert has run his butcher shop at that location, next to Lucky’s Cafe, for four and a half years. As he explains it, at the end of the day beef that’s been ground has to be thrown out because it just doesn’t keep. When he worked at Tom Thumb, where he learned to be a butcher, they used to throw out “enough every day to feed a small country,” and it drove him crazy.Â He decided that when he had his own place, he would do things differently.
So, as a treat for some of the many drivers who find themselves backed up at the Lemmon Avenue light, Geert generally hands out two or three packages of ground meat a day. He’d rather do that than trash it. Plus it serves as a nice bit of marketing for his place. “I’d rather give you $5,Â and have you come back and spend $50, than just throw that $5 away.”
The marketing element certainly seems to have worked this time, hasn’t it?