Page 38 - Salem Magazine Spring 2016
P. 38

 Our Community
   Beefy Upgrade for O’Brien Meats
By Clark Ruhland
A staple of downtown Salem has experienced a major facelift. O’Brien Meats has expanded from its tight quarters into a café style market.
The expansion project was always a possibility to owner Todd O’Brien, who runs the family business with is brother Tim. It wasn’t until Salem’s Downtown Plan began to take shape that his family turned the possibility into reality.
involved local Salem contractors. These changes are quite an improvement from the original tight quarters.
“Our original place was never set up for a café,” said O’Brien. “The renovation needed to create an atmosphere that everybody was comfortable with, not just a bunch of guys crammed into a small area.
“This is now a place that’s still a meat market, but it’s also a place to bring the family, a one-stop place to get dairy, produce and meats. It’s also a welcoming place to hang out. Good things happen in places like that.”
The business, which was started by Todd’s parents, Conrad and Gladys O’Brien in 1971, still offers the famous made-to-order sandwiches and salads, but has expanded the market to include fresh co-op produce, dairy products from Curtin’s Dairy and unique Counter Culture Coffee. Expanded morning & afternoon hours add to the improvements as they hope to attract more downtown customers and students from Roanoke College.
“My son Jeremy, who has worked at Mill Mountain Coffee here in Salem and Roanoke, envisioned a café and pub kind of place,” O’Brien said. “That’s what we plan to do down the road.”
Salem’s Planning & Development Department is working with other downtown businesses to explore expansions like O’Brien Meats.
“Once I saw what the Downtown Plan was about, I thought this would fit into what our company needed to do. That was the nail for us,” O’Brien said. “The city wanted to do this and we did, too. It was the perfect time.”
“The city has helped us so much,” O’Brien said. “I met with folks from the Planning Department last year and they helped us with about $5,000 in grant money.”
The total cost of the project was around $30,000. O’Brien convinced himself this was the right time to expand.
“I said I’m going to do this because I’ve got to do it,” he said. “As a meat shop, we didn’t offer enough to the community. We needed more. We wanted to have a market, a café and the meat shop where
customers downtown can walk in for service. Downtown Salem is such a nice place to be, to walk, to live.”
Construction started late last year and included knocking down a few walls, adding café counter space, a new entrance, outdoor seating and a host of new appliances. Every project
    The tight quarters of O’Brien Meats in 2012 (left) are a thing of the past as the new expansion has more than tripled the size of the once crammed market. Fresh produce and coffee can now be found along with their usual items.
SPRING 2016 |

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