It takes a village: Saucisson looking to double down on Village Feast

Imagine feeding 500 of your neighbors—and then doubling that number a year later.

Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend of Saucisson, a Slavic Village-based artisanal cured meat and sausage shop, have taken the lead on making the neighborhood’s Village Feast one to remember.

The first year of the feast—in 2016—they didn’t even have a brick-and-mortar shop. Still, with the help of partners throughout the area, Saucisson managed to serve 300 community members, increasing that number to 500 in 2017.

Last March, Khoury and Barend moved their operation into their new shop on Fleet Avenue, and they recently celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 16. Previously, Khoury and Barend (aka the “lady butchers”) were busy branding themselves and selling their products at popup events and local markets.

This year, the Saucisson co-owners are shooting for 1,000 happy neighbors enjoying cuisine and community on Fleet and a closed-down W 54th Street lined with tables—kids chasing each other and laughing; adults who normally wouldn’t interact enjoying one another.

While this event is for Slavic Village residents only, Barend and Khoury are looking to the region to help make the feast a success—not just because they love food, but because their decision to set up shop in Slavic Village was deliberate. Not only do they believe in the neighborhood's revitalization, but Khoury says it’s the 27,000-plus people who call the village home and their commitment to the economically-challenged, yet hopeful, community that has really drawn them in.

“It’s a true neighborhood,” said Khoury. “A woman brought us a ficus for Christmas. Who does that anymore?”

Of course, Slavic Village Development is instrumental in organizing the event and securing funding from organizations like Neighborhood Connections and Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland.

Green City Growers, Premier Produce, Inca Tea, local investor Sonny Day Development, Fortuna Funeral Home, and others pitched in last year to provide a barbeque-style meal of braised beef, fresh sauces and potato salad.

“We actually ran out of food last year,” said Khoury. “That’s the worst part.”

To fend off those issues this year, she and Barend are currently busy working to find food donations for the June 4 feast. The feast also serves as the kickoff for the neighborhood’s famers market, Village Market, so it’s a great opportunity for small growers to have a presence.

As far as non-food donations are concerned, the more creative the better. This could include musicians, photographers or students, face-painters and balloon artists or other kids’ entertainers. Most needed are donations of tables and chairs from a local rental company; as well as security guards or off-duty police officers.

“To be able to take something donated and turn it into something beautiful,” said Khoury. “That’s so meaningful.”

Those interested in donating food, services or other items can contact Saucisson at 216-303-9067 or by email.