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On the Front Lines: Sonnenberg’s manager focuses on customers amid ‘absolutely crazy’ rush

Dan Englehart donned his blue apron and walked behind the meat counter at Sonnenberg’s Market & Deli earlier this week, something he has done thousands of times in the 32 years he’s worked at the family-owned grocery store.

“This store is needed,” Englehart said. “I mean, you take this store out of this neighborhood – that would be a lot of hungry people.”

Englehart started working at Sonnenberg’s when he was 17, just a few years after the current owner, Clyde Sonnenberg, bought the business.

Sonnenberg’s has been in business since 1891 and is known for its extensive meat department.

“If it doesn’t have meat in it, I don’t eat it,” said Englehart, who had just finished eating a steak on his lunch break.

With the coronavirus pandemic in full force, Sonnenberg’s has been extremely busy for over a month.

“It’s been absolutely crazy,” Englehart said. “They want to get a big quantity of meat in their freezers and stay home.”

Englehart manages the meat department and said he and his crew have been working 13- to 17-hour days, and banking significant overtime.

Even with all those long days, Englehart said he still loves coming to work.

“I just love customer service,” Englehart said. “I love dealing with the public, especially in a tough time like this, we’re here to take care of the public.”

Customers have been pretty demanding, he said, but it’s been a mixed bag.

“They’re kind of understanding what we’re going through,” Englehart said. “We have had people that have been very demanding, but they’ve been very generous, too. My guys have been making great tips.”

Englehart said he’s worried that other small, locally owned businesses that make East Central what it is won’t be able to reopen after the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order is lifted.

Sonnenberg’s has been doing well, though, which Englehart said is an outcome of the time and care they take with each customer.

“You don’t get that at the supermarket – you get what they have there. If they want a special cut, we’ll do that for them, even at a time like this,” Englehart said. “You’re the most important customer … until my next customer.”

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