A Salem institution closed its doors this month, capping off a 45-year run in the community.
The owners of O’Brien Meats, a mom-and-pop butcher shop and deli, announced the news on Labor Day.
Sarah O’Brien said the decision wasn’t made easily, but the family felt the time was right.
“We wish to thank our wonderful customers for their loyal support over the years,” she wrote in an email.
“We are grateful beyond words for their friendship and enthusiasm for our little store. … We can’t emphasize enough how special and how important that is to all of us in the O’Brien family.”
O’Brien Meats, founded by Conrad O’Brien and his wife, Glad, was known for its custom-cut meats and the friendly, familiar faces behind the counter.
The news that it was closing spurred hundreds of online comments as people shared memories of the store spanning generations — from peering into the display cases as children to popping in for lunch on the first day of a new job to carving up an O’Brien’s ham for Christmas dinner.
O’Brien Meats opened for business in 1972 on Peters Creek Road and had as many as seven outlets across the Roanoke Valley at one point.
By 1998, its storefront in downtown Salem had become its sole home base. The shop was passed onto sons Todd and Tim O’Brien, and grandson Jeremy could be found behind the counter as well.
Over the decades, the little family-run butcher shop worked to evolve amid an era of growing competition from supermarket chains.
Conrad O’Brien, or Connie to friends and customers, introduced the shop's popular menu of meaty sandwiches, along with soups and salads, in the 1990s.
Two years ago, the O’Briens renovated the storefront, ushering in an expanded deli and cafe.
Throughout it all, the family placed a premium on hometown service. The people who came through the door weren’t just customers but neighbors and friends, said Sarah, Todd O’Brien's wife.
The O’Briens plan to sell the shop’s downtown location found at 26 W. Main St., near the Salem Farmers Market.
The building also includes an upstairs set of office spaces. The family said it will be looking forward to seeing what comes next for the location as a new owner puts its stamp on the property.