BELLEVILLE — To say the Renfro brothers are excited to open Nick & Vito's Meat & Deli in their favorite neighborhood is an understatement.
They can't get the words out fast enough -- and on top of one another -- when they talk about this new chance to showcase their talents.
Vito: "I'm the deli man."
Nick: "I'm a meat engineer."
Vito: "Well then, I'm a deli meat engineer."
Nick: "We're a pair of engineers, just say that."
The brothers laughed.
"We love being able to stay here on the west end of town," said Nick.
"This is where we grew up," said Vito of working in the business.
The two spent a combined total of 40 years -- 18 for Nick and 22 for Vito -- working at Main Street Market at the corner of 82nd and West Main streets. When the neighborhood grocery store changed hands, the pair saw an opportunity to start out on their own -- on the opposite corner where Raymond's Place diner used to be.
Nick, 34, is the one with the beard. He practically lifts off the red-and-black checkered tile floor of the butcher shop and deli as he talks.
"I was 16 when I started. This is all I know how to do. I enjoy my job."
He's the butcher. In the morning, he can be found in the back working on a slab of beef, making his own sausage with secret seasonings and custom-cutting just about anything a customer wants in the way of beef, pork and chicken.
He even has their grandmother's well-used recipe card close at hand, ready for when he seasons corned beef.
"What'd we sell, 20 pounds a day?" Nick asks. Closer to 31, answers Vito. Most of it goes toward thick reuben sandwiches on marble rye for $7.99.
Vito, 38, handles the deli, making sure all runs smoothly: There are Excel bottled drinks ($1.50), potato salad and cole slaw in the cooler, a wide variety of cheese in the meat case and a variety of bread from Fazio's in St. Louis for sandwiches to go or to eat-in. He makes about 3,000 homemade potato chips a day, too. ($1.99 for a bag.)
The business opened May 10 and had a grand opening June 21. Everybody is still a little dizzy from the response.
"We made 40 sandwiches yesterday and that was slow," said Nancy Coats at the checkout, or as Vito calls her, "the house representative."
She's a Main Street Market veteran hired along with Mary Lou Wittenauer, who does the food prep.
Vito: "We make our own sausage." There's sweet, mild and spicy Italian, brats and Cheddar brats.
Nick: "It's our own blends. I think it's 120 pounds sold in the last two days. Oh, and 40 pounds of bacon in a week."
Vito: "And we make fresh ham salad."
The pork is from Behrmann's in Albers. The brothers use as many local vendors as possible.
They grind their own chuck to sell out of the meat case, as well as for burgers. They've got a couple special ones. For example, the Critter Burger is a 2-pound patty, plus bacon and cheese for $9. The Mushroom Swiss Burger is $6.99. There are hot and cold subs ($5.99 and $6.99), Philly Cheesesteak, hot Italian (each $7.99) and more.
You can have your sandwich on a baguette, a bun, ciabatta roll, marble rye, Italian wheat or white, asiago or sourdough. Take home a bag of your bread choice for $2.99 to $3.99.
Mary Lou has loyal followers of her meatloaf sandwich -- her mother's recipe, she said -- sold only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Nick will be barbecuing ribs, pork steaks and chicken on Fridays and Saturdays.
The brothers said none of this would be possible without their parents, Molly Seel and Tony Renfro, who also are partners in the business.
Plus, there is the loyalty factor. On a recent day, customers were doing as much hugging with the brothers as they were buying.
"I think it's awesome. We're so happy for Nick and Vito," said Mary Jo Carpenter, of Belleville, as she talked to Nancy at the counter. Her brother, John Carpenter, and brother-in-law Mike Chenault, were the former owners of Main Street Market. "We wish them the best. They have people who love them and their meat and sandwiches. They have the best chicken."
Nick & Vito's Meat & Deli
What: Full-service butcher and delicatessen. Custom orders, catering, carryout. Small eat-in area with some seating outside.
Where: 8201 W. Main St., Belleville
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuedays through Sundays
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Information: 618-407-6566 or nickandvitos.com