BY MELANIE ULLE
A lot of huge things happened in 1923. The first home game was played at Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees. King Tut’s Burial Chamber was opened in Egypt, and the Republic of Turkey was established. But what was even bigger and better? Oliver’s Meat Market opened on 6th Avenue and Pearl Street.
Today, 100 years later, just down the road on 6th Avenue and Gilpin, Denverites are still enjoying the broad assortment of meats from Oliver’s and continue benefiting from the hard work of Jim and Rich Oliver, fourth-generation butchers. Asked about his future desires for the family business, Jim replied, “I just want to be able to have the honor and privilege of serving people quality products.”
And serve great products, they do with wide offerings that feel entirely impossible in such a small spot: Boar’s Head Deli meats and cheeses, Colorado lamb, fresh and frozen poultry, fresh and frozen seafood, fresh pork, fresh veal, gourmet grocery items, homemade sausage (over 40 kinds), homemade stock, imported meats (Parma Ham, Serrano Ham), cheeses, soups and sauces, USDA prime and choice dry aged beef and so much more.
My friend Robert is a total Oliver’s Meat Market devotee, and he casually mentioned the other day that when he dies, he wants his ashes placed in an urn over the meat counter at Oliver’s. I suspect he’s not the only one. Jim told me they’ve been serving some of the same families for generations since his great grandfather owned the place. The same families!
It’s hard to imagine my great-grandparents buying meat from the same small meat shop as my family today. We live in a world that values price and convenience over all else, and that comes at a cost. Having watched retail’s rise and fall as the daughter of a store manager, I covet the lost days of “shopping” and a Cherry Creek filled with small independent businesses. They still exist, of course, but so many are hanging on by a string. I cannot think of one local establishment my grandmother visited that I still patronize today. It hurts to even write that.
It might be our most important and gracious act as citizens of Denver to recommit ourselves to the days of old. To recommit to the butchers who served our grandparents and their parents and ensure that these gems remain with us for another 100 years.
I cling to these institutions that grew roots in the beautiful and diverse neighborhoods of Denver, and I am still mourning my Bonnie Brae Tavern. I desperately long for them to stay and for big chains to leave room for our little guys who make a city a city with a beating heart and character and even sometimes leave some spilled wine on our shirt or crumbs on our collective face.
None of us know what the future holds for our wonderful local treasures, but the future remains bright for our dear friends at Oliver’s Meat Market. Jim says of his city, “it’s a good community. Over the years the landscape of Denver has changed dramatically but many people stay focused on their roots and like to see their local small businesses succeed.” Amen, Jim, and cheers to another 100 years for the whole Oliver Family.