Heart of the Entrepreneur: Jeff Herman

By Adam Vlach
Photos by Megan Rogers Photographie

Jeff Herman didn’t have to look any further than his family to understand what is the most rewarding part of the restaurant business.

hermans1Upon entering Herman’s Meat & Smokehouse, one is immediately greeted by a friendly cashier at the check- out counter right by the door. An aroma of barbecue fills the air while, on the far side of the room, the chatter of customers in the dining area creates a lively atmosphere. Two teenagers stand behind a counter, taking orders for barbecue and take-out.

Straight ahead is the deli counter with a glass display case, showing off a large selection of deli products and other meats and cheeses that customers can buy and take home. Behind the deli counter, three men in aprons are working side-by-side, cutting and preparing meat to be showcased and sold. However, one of the three men behind the counter isn’t an employee—it’s Jeff Herman, the third-generation owner of the company. Herman’s Meat was founded in the 1950s by Jeff Herman’s grandfather and uncle. After his father became a part of the self-described “Ma and Pop” business, Herman began working for the family venture at the age of 13.

“I’ve been here my whole life,” Herman said.

hermans3After his father passed away, Herman took over as head of the business in 2000.

“We have a pretty good base of customers that come in regularly,” Herman said.

“Over the years, I’ve kind of grown up with their families. When I was a little kid, the people were buying meat for their family. Now their children are coming in because they’re getting to the age where they’re starting to buy food. You get to know people, and that’s the most rewarding part.”

But being the owner also presents unique challenges.

“Having to control everything in the business is the hard part,” Herman said. “Back when my father was still around, he did all of the behind-the- scenes stuff, and all I did was work and learn the business.”

hermansThanks to the mentoring of his father, Herman had a decent idea of how to operate the business side of Herman’s Meat when he took over. However, Herman still had a lot to learn.

“You just kind of learn from other professional friends that have businesses,” Herman said. “I got a lot of advice from other family members and friends that was really helpful.”

Herman said there isn’t a particular reason why he’s in the meat industry, other than that’s just what he fell into at a young age. But he did say there is a gratifying aspect to being in that specific business.

“I’ve just grown up doing meat and stuff like that. It is rewarding to be able to provide customers with products that are quality and what they’re looking for and giving good customer service,” Herman said.

Hoping to make his business stand a cut above the rest, Herman focuses on providing quality customer service to the community.

“We strive to have customer service be the number one factor,” Herman said. “I think customer service over the years has kind of lost momentum. I think more people are just worried about putting out something that tastes good and not really concerned about the public as much anymore. We try very hard to acknowledge and treat customers really good and offer them quality service, you know, try to bend over backwards for them.”

hermans2And as to why the owner was behind the deli counter in an apron working with meat alongside employees.

“I’m a hands-on owner,” Herman said. “I’m not one that just sits back and lets people run the business. I’m here every day, doing the day-to-day operations and doing all the behind-the- scenes stuff. I see just about everybody that comes in and work directly with customers.”

Herman’s Meat & Deli moved from its location on SW Fairlawn Road, its home since 1990, to the new location at 4211 SW Huntoon St. on June 6. With the move and addition of the in-store barbecue restaurant came the name change to Herman’s Meat & Smokehouse.

“It’s been really good,” Herman said of the new changes. “We’ve had a really good response from the public and everybody seems to be happy and positive about our store. They really like our new location, and products that we provide have gotten really good reviews.”

There are no immediate plans to open a second venue. For now, Herman and his team are just enjoying the success of the longtime business in a new location.

“We’re excited, and hopefully it just keeps growing,” Herman said.