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July 4, 2020

Salute to service: McLaughlin’s rolls, serving fresh cuts of meat to locals

By Carl Blankenship

carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — McLaughlin’s Grocery is a landmark. The small store has been serving up fresh cuts of meat and general goods for decades.

The store is tight, and full of classic equipment from the early and mid-1900s: meat cases, scales and meat processing tools are all well-maintained vintage pieces.

The small, local shop is part of the community framework that helps keep people fed and enjoying food they want amid the uncertainty sewn by COVID-19, and McLaughlin’s provides some special products people can not get otherwise.

These days, things look a bit different at the store. Everyone is wearing masks, it has limited hours, a senior hour in the morning and staff sanitizes the store every two hours,

Owner Harry McLaughlin said it feels like the store needs staff just to clean.

“We almost have to have someone just to do that,” McLaughlin said. “The primary things we are hitting are places where people touch.

The store has managed to stay healthy by taking precautions despite COVID-19 often knocking on its front door. Workers from the nearby V.A. hospital shop there. McLaughlin even knows a pair of customers who died due to the virus.

Brianna McCullough wears a few hats: running the register, stocking shelves, making sandwiches and making sure the store is organized.

“This has been crazy,” McCullough said. “We’ve been really busy.”

McCullough said she feels good about the work being done in the store.

McLaughlin said the community support has helped the store keep going, and dedicated customers have been buying more than usual. Store hours had to be cut when some employees did not want to stay onboard during the pandemic. The shop still has its devotees. Butcher Johnny Mann has worked in a slew of different settings, but McLaughlin’s is his favorite place to work, describing it as a pleasure to work there.

“I’ve been cutting meat for 43 years,” Mann said.

Mann said the biggest challenge for the store’s meat supply is the shortage of beef, though otherwise the product at the store has not been affected. Mann said most of the store’s products come from the state and it can get most of its products every week.

“What we do here, we have products that the average supermarket don’t carry and we don’t have pre-packed products,” Mann said. “We cut on demand.”

The store sells meat products used in classic Southern dishes like pig trotters, oxtail and turkey necks. On the morning of May 20, the store was quickly selling its supply of oxtails. Most customers who come for turkey necks get them cut in half.

“You still have a lot of people in society that like the old-style meats like pig feet, neck bones, ham hocks and a lot of markets have gotten out of carrying those particular products,” Mann said. “So we cater to people that desire that product.”

Mann noted he sells more unusual products along with fresh popular cuts like ribeye and filet mignon.

“You don’t have to eat a whole cow to know it’s beef,” Mann said. “You can come here, you can get pork chops, neck bones, pig feet, chicken, chicken feet; we even sell goat meat. We sell a product that you can’t find in the average supermarket.”

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