(Plain Press, March 2014)Tend-R-Lean Steak Company at 7106 Lorain Avenue is well known to Plain Press readers. Tend-R-Lean’s advertisement has graced the back page of the Plain Press for over two decades, offering readers frozen meat and other food items at wholesale prices. Many readers go first to the back page of the Plain Press to check the deals available for the month.
Tend-R-Lean owner, Martin “Marty” Kreinberg, is often the person behind the counter gathering the food for customers. He is also well known to many restaurant and small grocery store owners around the West Side of Cleveland. Kreinberg represents the third generation of his family to process meat in the neighborhood.
Kreinberg says about 20% of his business is selling frozen pre-packaged frozen food to retail customers. On a monthly basis he provides home delivery to about 75 homes. Currently home delivery is offered free to customers making purchases of $150 or more. Many of Tend-R-Lean’s retail customers use food stamps to purchase meat, and recent cuts to food stamp recipients have hurt the retail portion of the business. A decline in the population of the Near West Side has also steadily reduced the number of retail customers. At its peak–from 1985 to 1995–Tend-R-Lean had 9 retail stores and had 19 employees. The business currently has just one location.
Eighty percent of the business involves sales to restaurants and grocery stores. Currently Tend-R-Lean supplies 50 to 70 restaurants and three grocery stores on a weekly basis with fresh and frozen meat. Kreinberg’s longest standing restaurant account under the same owner is George’s Kitchen at Berea Road and Triskett. Other restaurants he has as customers include chef-driven restaurants such as Momocho, Flap Jacks, Soho, and Old Angle. Other restaurants he has counted as customers include Nick’s, BJ’s, Kristina’s Family Restaurant, Michael’s and Maggie’s Diner.
Marty Kreinberg started working at Tend-R-Lean Steak Company in 1976 learning the wholesale meat business from the owner, Mike Shuga. Kreinberg purchased the business from Mike and Helen Shuga in January of 1978. He soon was making innovations. He was the first in the Cleveland market to sell bulk frozen meat on a retail basis. “No one sold bulk frozen meat in this market; I started it, “ said Kreinberg. He noted, he was also the first to sell family packs of chicken in the area.
Marty Kreinberg is proud to be able to save his customers money. He says, “I still think that I offer the best deal in town. The best value for the dollar.” His fondest memories of the business are the appreciation from customers who tell him, “Without you, my family couldn’t afford to eat meat all month long.”
Marty Kreinberg’s family has a long history in the meatpacking and processing business in Cleveland. Marty represents the third generation in the business. His grandfather, Karl Kreinberg, and Great Uncle Joseph Kreinberg, arrived in Cleveland from Russia in 1907 and partnered with William Krasney to form a business cutting and processing beef in a stockyards area located where Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena are today. Kreinberg says the Central Market grew up around those stockyards to create a shopping district much like the West Side Market today.
In 1927, the stockyards in the Central Market area moved to W. 65th between Storer and Clark to join other meatpacking and processing businesses. Karl and Joseph Kreinberg and William Krasney built their own slaughterhouse there, Kreinberg and Krasny Provisions at 3200 W. 65th Street. Marty’s father Sidney Kreinberg and his uncle Gerald Kreinberg marked the second generation of the Kreinberg family to run the business with partner Harold Krasney. The partners ran the business until it closed in 1982. “The reason the Stockyards closed was the packaging of meat in plastic bags with a shelf life of 3-6 weeks. There was no longer a need for local processing,” said Kreinberg.
Marty Kreinberg estimates that at its peak in 1976, Kreinberg and Krasny processed and packaged about 150 head of cattle a day. All their meat was shipped to the East Coast via truck or rail. Kreinberg says after World War II, all the meat was sent out in refrigerated trucks.
Kreinberg experienced first-hand work in the meat packing business at Kreinberg and Krasny working for his father and uncle one summer and one winter break in 1969 and 1972. He says all the meat was processed from the cattle, including the tongues and cheek meat. The fat and guts went to the renders across the street. He also has memories as a child seeing his father on the television news on occasion chasing down and trying to corner a runaway steer with his car. Kreinberg says that on occasion a steer would escape when being unloaded from trucks into the cattle pens.
Kreinberg says the area from Storer Avenue to Clark Avenue on W. 65th Street was teaming with businesses – meat processers and packinghouses and renders. A larger, Gibbs and Company, which was located where McMahan’s Wrecking is today, processed about 200 head of cattle a day. Another company, Keystone, specialized in processing lamb and veal. Swift and Company processed hogs. With the addition of the large breweries in the area, Kreinberg says at its peak the businesses on W. 65th in the area between Storer and Clark employed about 10,000 people.
Kreinberg and Krazny at its peak employed about 40 people –all were union employees. The original union to represent the workers was known as the Meat Cutters District 427 of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America. In 1979 it became the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 427. Marty Kreinberg says that Kreinberg and Krazny was the first of the meat packinghouses to hire African American employees. When hired, the employees were admitted to the union at union wages. By the late 1960s and early 1970s nearly all the workers at Kreinberg and Krazny were African American unionized workers, says Kreinberg.