business matters

70 years strong: Thoma Meat Market's 'famous Saxonburg bologna' sold in 17 states

In 1944, Paul Thoma Sr. and his wife, Dorothy, purchased a one-room butcher shop on Main Street in Saxonburg.

Within a year, Thoma Meat Market outgrew that one room and relocated to Dinnerbell Road, right next to Knoch High School.

And 76 years later, that is where Thoma Meat Market still stands, still producing its famous bologna.

Paul Sr. passed the business down to his sons, Wayne and Paul Jr., who in turn passed it down to their sons, Tim and Brian.

Tim said the story behind the market's 'famous Saxonburg bologna' goes all the way back to his grandfather, Paul Sr.

As Tim tells it, the story goes that there was another butcher, out on the edge of Saxonburg, who called his bologna the 'original Saxonburg bologna'.

Paul Sr. also called his bologna the 'original Saxonburg bologna', but the other man wanted the name so badly that he was willing to take Paul Sr. to court to fight for it.

Not wanting to wade into a legal battle, Paul Sr. simply told the man he can call his bologna “original” and Paul Sr. will call his “famous.”

Fast forward a few decades and Thomas Meat Market's famous Saxonburg bologna still is being made while the other butcher has been out of business a “long, long time”.

Tim said that Thoma's ring bologna differs from others' because at Thoma they use a more traditional method.

“A lot of bologna is fine ground, down to basically hot dog meat,” Tim said. “Our's is only twice ground, which is more traditional.”

Thoma Meat Market sells meat from its storefront, but also partners with Troyer Cheese in Millersburg, Ohio, to ship it all over the East Coast.

Tim said Thoma bologna is sold in 17 states.

When meat started to become scarce at grocery stores during the pandemic, Tim said Thoma started getting orders from all over – Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Maryland.

“People searched for local meat and found us,” Tim said. “They found out we were only 25 miles north of Pittsburgh and put an order in.”

Tim said they filled more than 500 sides of beef in four weeks, and the demand was so high that he asked his niece to remove the order option from their website.

“Plus we had a beautiful summer. Mother's Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July, people were always out grilling and we've just had an incredible year, Tim said”

Tim explained that, in order to keep up with their increased demand, Thoma was able to work with 20 local family farms to get all the meat it needed.

“We were blessed because we don't need to go out and buy stuff from people we don't know,” Tim said. “Customers know they're getting good, local stuff.”