May 21 2014 12:00 AM


Earlier this year, the Michigan Market became the east side’s dominant convenience store. It featured a wide selection of beer, wine, liquor and cooler items — as well as a small supply of snacks and household items — but although the store’s deli counter should be in place by summer, it lacks the perishable items typically associated with a full-service community grocery store. However, the neighborhood will get fresh with a full range of meat cuts and seafood when Mert’s Meats on the Avenue opens one block away in two weeks. The 1,800-square-foot store on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Marshall Street will open the week of June 2, and will be the satellite location for Mert’s Specialty Meats in Okemos.

“We saw a need for fresh meat in the east side,” said Shirley Decker Prescott, who co-owns the business with her son and husband. “That area is really starting to build up. We know we’ve got a good customer base there and it’s a great neighborhood.”

Mert’s Meats on the Avenue will feature Chairman’s reserve beef from a Midwest distributor, including grassfed ground beef and steaks, as well as homemade sausages, regular and freerange chickens and duck. The seafood selection will include salmon, crab, shrimp and prepared selections like stuffed clams and crusted tilapia.

“We can also bring specialty items in as customers ask and availability is there,” Prescott said. “We have the ability to fill a much needed niche.”

Like the Okemos location, the Michigan Avenue store will also stock spices, sauces and limited local produce (like asparagus) that go hand-inhand with the ingredients for a summer barbecue. Prescott said that although the area still needs it, she has no aims to become a full-fledged grocer.

“We’re just going focus on meat — that’s what we’re best at,” she said. “We can’t compete with Kroger or Meijer, but we can do something they can’t by keeping our emphasis on quality and personal customer service.”

Mert’s Specialty Meats opened in fall 2011, six months after L&L store in Okemos closed. Prescott’s husband, Mert, was the store’s butcher, but after the store closed, they were at a loss for what to do next.

“We were wondering what we were going to do for work and where we were going to go for meat, so we decided to open (Mert’s),” Prescott said. “We developed a good following, and have been looking to open a new store since January. Our first thought was DeWitt, but nothing was available right now, so we thought the east side would be a great spot.”

The building is a mixed-use development that opened two years ago by the Gillespie Co. Mert’s closest neighbor will be the Subway that opened there in 2012. Mert’s in Okemos has 13 employees, two of which will move to the Lansing store. She expects to hire more as the business grows. All of the meat will be cut at the Okemos location and driven to the Michigan Avenue store. Although Prescott’s husband is retired, her son, Brandon, has learned how to cut meat and will run the back of the house while she runs the front.

“It’s such a perfect location for us,” she said “There’s builtin traffic from Accident Fund, Sparrow Hospital and the Capitol nearby. We’re hoping to increase business for all the other shops and businesses all around us.”

Mert’s Meats on the Avenue 1629 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday- Friday; 11 a.m.-5:30 on Saturday-Sunday, (517) 483-2368