Some masters of craft may work in paints, and others, wood. Frank Azman III, however, worked in meats for over four decades. An afternoon spent in Azman & Sons Market over a sausage sandwich revealed in one bite why the shop was a staple of the neighborhood for generations. Similarly, customers who were greeted by first name upon arrival added to the charm of Azman's, harkening back to an era when businesses more commonly knew their customers personally and corner markets stood as epicenters of activity in communities.
The Azman family first began working in the sausage business in the village of Ig, a small town in their native country of Slovenia. Frank Azman relocated his family and business to America during World War I, a period which saw the greatest recorded emigration of Slovenians to the United States in history. Settling in Cleveland, Azman reestablished his sausage shop in 1924 at 6501 St. Clair Avenue amidst the largest Slovenian community in the country.
As not only business owners but, also, residents, the Azman name quickly became recognizable in the St. Clair neighborhood and soon began to spread throughout the city of Cleveland. Proud of their community and eager to participate in local events, Azman son’s, Frank II and Louis, refurbished their father’s old Model T to be used in parades to promote Azman & Sons Market. During its arguably most memorable ride, a Miss World pageant winner once joined the Azmans in the Model T when she arrived late to an event and her scheduled parade float had already set off.
Besides assisting beauty pageant winners in times of distress, the Azman family also helped those looking for the familiarity of a home-cooked meal. In 1968, a crew of Yugoslavian volunteer servicemen were docked in Cleveland and hoped to find a dinner reminiscent of their homeland. After sampling an Azman sausage at a local restaurant, the restauranteur contacted Azman & Sons Market to see if the servicemen could have some sausages to take with them upon their departure. Although already closed for the day, the shop was reopened and the crew was treated to more food for their journey.
What had really kept Azman & Sons in business for over nine decades, though, was the family’s dedication to their local customer base and quality of their products. When asked what the most important ingredient to the Azman sausage recipe was, third-generation owner Frank Azman III pointed without hesitation to the original brick smokehouse. Located behind the shop, the small, unassuming brick structure had been smoking sausages since 1924. Modern-day smokehouses are primarily stainless steel and Azman III argued that they cannot match the flavor of a sausage slowly smoked over cherry wood.
In addition to the smokehouse, the store had also kept the original butcher block table in the center of the kitchen, worn down by years of cleaning. Likewise, the store had continued to use the original cooler, which was first chilled by large overhead ice blocks but was eventually updated to run on electricity. These pieces remained in use as operable parts of the shop’s longstanding history.
Azman & Sons Market once served the community as a full -service grocery store offering patrons produce and pantry items in addition to the three hundred pounds of meat they processed and sold weekly. As the needs of the neighborhood changed, however, Azman & Sons Market scaled back its operations to focus on meats. Azman & Sons closed permanently in December 2021 with the passing of the store’s owner Frank Azman. The Azman legacy continues, however, with Frank’s brother Bill Azman. Bill runs a similar store called Azman Quality Meats located at 610 East 200th Street in Euclid.