Meet the maker

Spanitz Bros. Sausage

By | October 07, 2018
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Photographs: Garrett MacLean

Paul Spanitz was a college student when he started working at Nate’s Market in Grosse Ile. “He was 18, 19 years old when he started learning to make sausage,” says his twin brother, Pete. Two decades later, Spanitz Bros. Sausage is available in stores and restaurants. But there’s more to the story.

The twins grew up in Trenton. Paul became a teacher; Pete went into the automotive field. Making sausage, it turned out, was something the brothers enjoyed doing together in Paul’s Wyandotte kitchen. So, in 2005, Pete’s wife suggested he buy Paul a sausage stuffer for Christmas. Soon friends and family were lining up. Word spread. Demand grew.

Then in 2011, Paul died suddenly. “Within three months after he died, I decided I’m going to pursue the sausage company,” Pete says. It took until 2015 “to get everything that goes with USDA approval … and get everything situated.” That’s when he quit his day job for a new title: co-founder and chief sausage maker.

Though it took four years, along the way Pete found people in the local food community willing to help him get the business off the ground. Not that there weren’t skeptics. “Here’s this guy showing up saying ‘I want to start a sausage company, and I want to take it to market,’” he recalls. “It was, like, ‘I’ve heard this before.’”

The company started with the brothers’ original recipe, the Hearty Poleman, an unorthodox combination of Polish and German flavors with 12 secret spices.

“That one alone took eight months to develop,” Pete says. Flavor options have expanded to include bratwurst, Polish with pepper jack, cheeseburger, kielbasa and Coney. Pete’s favorite is the cheeseburger. He likes to parboil it, then grill it or brown it stovetop. The sausage—all pork with natural casings—is sold fresh and uncooked.

“Paul and I had always done fresh pork sausage. That’s what we knew how to do. Plus, we didn’t have the equipment” to precook the sausages. Not to mention that the precooked sausage market is pretty crowded.

Spanitz Bros. Sausage is now produced at Dearborn Brand in Roseville, which serves as co-packer. The meat, casings and spices are purchased at Butcher & Packer in Madison Heights, which has been the supplier from the beginning. Portions of the proceeds benefit the Paul Spanitz Memorial Scholarship Fund at Lincoln Park High School and the Wyandotte Adoption Center of Downriver Pound Pals.

Spanitz Bros. Sausage is available in specialty stores such as Westborn Market in Berkley, Eastern Market in Canton and Randazzo’s. Local breweries have turned out to be the company’s biggest fans. Sometimes Pete makes custom blends for them. “I still show up and make sausage on site,” he says. “It’s fun to do. I love it.

“It’s kind of the nostalgic thing I want to keep going, showing up and making sausage for people.”

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