Manufacturing People in the News

Usingers to receive BizTimes Lifetime Achievement Award

The BizTimes 2011 Bravo! Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement Award will go to the Usinger family.

The annual award will be accepted by Fritz and Debra Usinger on behalf of generations of the Milwaukee family.

The award salutes entrepreneurs who have demonstrated bold corporate leadership and commitments to their workforce, their customers and their community.

The family operates Fred Usinger Inc. at 1030 N. Old World Third St., where the Usingers have been crafting and selling their sausages at their original store since 1880.

The company still uses the family’s original 19th century recipes, using only the finest ingredients. Unchanged since 1880, the recipes are never altered in order to meet a competitive price.

The Usinger family success story is the classic American Dream. In the late 1870’s, a young German immigrant, Fred Usinger, arrived in Milwaukee with $400 in cash and his favorite sausage recipes, which he had learned as an apprentice "wurstmacher" (sausage maker) in Frankfurt. Fred had ambition, dreams of a better life and the willingness to work hard for it.

Fred went to work for Julia Gaertner, a widow who operated a small butcher shop on Third Street. Within a year or so, Usinger had bought out Gaertner, married her niece, Louise, and moved into living quarters above the store.

The young couple worked 16 to 18 hours a day making and selling their sausage. Their best customers were saloonkeepers whose trade depended on the quality of their free lunches. As long as their customers relished Usinger’s sausages, the saloons paid Usinger’s premium price.

At the turn of the century, Milwaukee’s German aristocracy did their shopping on Third Street, and the store soon became a popular stop. Before long, the Usingers were shipping sausage as far away as New York. While business became so good that more help was needed, Fred Usinger kept the growth under control, so he could oversee each step of the sausage making process.

Fred Usinger died in 1930. His legacy, however, lives on. Today, a fourth generation of Usingers leads the firm into the 21st century, mindful of their heritage of “America’s Finest Sausage.”

Fritz Usinger serves as the company’s president, succeeding his father. Fritz’s sister, Debra, is the company’s director of retail operations and corporate services. They are great-grandchildren of the company’s founder. In recent years, the company has expanded with a plant in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood.

The BizTimes Bravo! Lifetime Achievement Award has been given to a who’s who list of Milwaukee’s foremost entrepreneurs. The Usingers will join an impressive list of past recipients of the award, including Stephen Marcus of The Marcus Corp.; Richard Pieper Sr. of PPC Partners Inc.; Harry Quadracci of Quad/Graphics Inc.; Joseph Zilber of Towne Realty Inc.; Robert Kern of Generac Power Systems Inc.; and George Dalton of Fiserv Inc. and Novo 1 Inc.

“BizTimes is proud to salute the best of the best,” said BizTimes Milwaukee publisher Dan Meyer. “The Usingers – as a family, a company and an employer – make Milwaukee a better place. Who could be more quintessentially Milwaukee than the Usingers?”

The award will be presented to the Usingers at the BizTimes Bravo! Entrepreneur and IQ Awards Luncheon on Thursday, May 12. The luncheon will be part of the BizTech Conference & Expo to be held at Wisconsin State Fair Park. To register to attend, visit www.biztimes.com/bravo.

 

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