Matt Burnstein, owner of Marketplace Meats & Deli in Waterford Township, stakes his reputation on selling a superior product and delivering it with top-notch customer service.
For 40 years, the butcher and specialty market has made its mark in the lakes area as an institution. Burnstein credits its continued success to his loyal patronage.
Burnstein bought the business about 20 years ago and it has remained a family-run enterprise ever since.
“It’s flipped names and owners about five times, but we’ve been here the longest,” Burnstein said. “It’s grown slowly and has been a challenge.”
When Burnstein took over the business, he immediately underscored friendly and attentive customer service.
“The former owner was absentee, and (Burnstein is not) and that’s what people liked about Matt,” said Burnstein’s wife, Susan Burnstein. “The employees know people by name and the atmosphere is very friendly. We have a lot of regulars.”
About a decade ago, the Baskin Robbins ice cream shop in the Cooley Lake Road plaza where Marketplace Meats is located closed, so the Burnsteins expanded into that space to provide a full-service delicatessen and more counters for fish, poultry, and ready-to-serve items.
“We expanded the selections and new dinners-to-go like meatloaf, lasagna, and roasted chicken — a big seller instead of just buying meats — for busy families who know they aren’t feeding their families fast food,” Susan said.
Steaks, hamburger and other meat selections are top sellers, but in addition, the store also sells salads and meal complements like sauces, fruits, and veggies.
Matt Burnstein’s philosophy is, “Don’t sell anything you wouldn’t put in your mouth yourself.”
He stands behind whatever he sells, whether it is specialty meats, cheese, poultry, fish, or deli items. Everything Burnstein sells is fresh and can be bought made-to-order.
“If he gets something in stock and it’s not up to par, he sends it back. Our reputation means too much to us,” Susan said. “Our butchers are willing to cut meats to specification, like a steak for some of our regular guys to 3 inches thick — that’s 3 to 4 pounds. You can’t get that anywhere.”
Prior to buying the business, Matt was a meat vendor at Eastern Market. He also held an insurance broker position, but when the opportunity arose to buy Marketplace Meats, he took the risk.
“I was going to be an insurance agent or stock broker, but I liked the meat business better,” he said. “When I bought the business, I was in the midst of building a house simultaneously, so it was a scary situation.”
Matt Burnstein uses numerous vendors to get the best price point, mostly local suppliers. His meat is imported primarily from out West; his fish is from Superior Fish Co. in Royal Oak.
“There are other vendors also, but we can get smaller quantities from Superior and it’s always fresh,” he said.
Moreover, Marketplace Meats is one of the largest customers of Dearborn Sausage and the first to sell the brand in west Oakland County.
Matt is also able to keep prices low by assuming responsibilities like payroll and purchasing in-house. Deliveries are accepted six days a week, several times a day.
“The hardest part of running a business is learning to delegate when you’re used to digging in with both hands,” he said. “Another challenge is that regulations are changing more and becoming complex — some good, some bad, and I have to stay on top of that.”
He also ensures superior quality at a fair price.
“We don’t gauge. People like that in the lakes area,” he said.
While high-quality products are essential, customer service ranks as a top priority. Each patron is welcomed with a smile or kind word.
“We know people come out of their way to stop in instead of buying at (big-box/chain) or other convenience stores, so we offer extra service like stuffing a chicken, or turkey at the holidays, and offer five to six different stuffings,” Susan Burnstein said.
Waterford resident Maureen Unsworth has been a regular customer of Marketplace Meats for over 20 years. She said personalized service coupled with top quality meats keep her coming back.
“It’s like going to the ‘Cheers’ bar. The employees are personable, they recognize you, and make you like you’re at home — and of course, the grades of meat are better,” Unsworth said. “I’d rather buy there than anywhere else.”
The staff consists of about 14 to 17 employees a year, usually four or five butchers at a given time. The average employee has been working there for roughly seven years; one has been with Matt since the very first day.
“If they aren’t friendly, they won’t be working here,” Burnstein said. “We treat everyone nicely and everyone the same. We have to because there is so much competition. We’ve been lucky.”
The Burnsteins have seen an uptick in the number of families dining at home in recent years given the constraints of the economy.
“With the economy, people are cooking more, so we try to offer items in every price range,” Susan said.
Loyal patrons visit from anywhere north of Traverse City and as far south as Indiana.
Customers have demonstrated their loyalty to Burnstein time and again. About 11 years ago, a day after the Burnsteins’ youngest daughter was born, a car crashed through the store, forcing them to remodel. What could have been a challenging time turned out well due to faithful customers.
“People lined up for four weeks and we took orders. We’re very lucky to have customers like that,” Matt Burnstein said.
Superior quality and top notch customer service is appreciated. There is one area couple who moved out of state and asks to have orders shipped to them, so periodically Matt sends shipments using dry ice via UPS.
Like most businesses, there have been some lean years, such as when heavy construction was being conducted on Cooley Lake Road or when new competition entered the market, but Marketplace Meats persevered.
“We have learned to adjust ourselves,” Matt said.
The store is located at 7714 Cooley Lake Road. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. except for Thursdays, when hours are extended until 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Contact Marketplace Meats at 248-363-2041, or visit marketplacemeats.com. You can also “like” the business on Facebook at facebook.com/marketplacemeats.