Students give cherry sausage two thumbs up

Ray Pleva speaks with Leland High School students in 1999.

CEDAR — Family-owned specialty meat shop Pleva’s Meats will close Feb. 1 after 73 years in business.

“We’ve been doing this for the last 18 years, and being a meat market is a lot harder, and has a lot higher expenses, than most probably realize,” said General Manager Andrew Pleva, son of current owners Tom and Connie Pleva.

“It’s an industry that’s starting to die, and it’s something that we can no longer do,” he said.

The building has been posted for sale.

The shop, 8974 S. Kasson St. near Cedar’s main intersection, opened in 1946. Cedar native Ray Pleva and his brother Andy took over the business in 1970. Ray sold the business in 2002 to cousin Tom and his wife.

Ray created a sausage made with tart cherries that he began enthusiastically marketing as Plevalean. The signature sausage remains a strong seller.

Plevalean won the Michigan New Product of the Year Award in 1993. Ray patented the beef/cherry blend in 1995. The product eventually found its way into restaurants and institutional settings including school lunches in 17 states.

But the store’s sales totals have been declining in recent years.

“It’s been a slow trend going down,” Andrew said.

Pleva’s Meats typically hires an additional three or four employees during the busy summer season.

“This time of year we have four or five, and most of that is family, including ourselves,” said Andrew.

He and Tom both work as school bus drivers for Glen Lake Community Schools.

“We’ll do that for the rest of the year, and we’ll have to see from there,” Andrew said.

There’s a chance Plevalean may survive the store’s February closing.

“We’re still working with that aspect,” said Andrew. “We’d like to partner with another company that might be interested in making it with us. It’s still kind of up in the air as far as what we’re going to do.”

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