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After more than 5 decades, shop owner retires

Don Waltman has decided to hang up his cleaver.

Owner of Waltman Meats, 338 Court St., he recently decided to retire and put the store up for sale.

“I’m going to be 78 in June,” said Waltman, standing behind the empty counters once brimming with meats, coldcuts and side salads.

Waltman, wearing a mask with cattle print — a sign of the times and one matching his career choice — said it had been a challenging year with COVID-19, but that was not the reason for closing after a half century.

“My legs are gone,” Waltman said, acknowledging he was unable to stand too long without support.

Remnants of a bustling business were around him, including the refrigerator stocked with soda and juice, a “Praise the Lard” sign, and horseradish jelly in jars for sale.

He looked around at the memorabilia in the store, including paper bags from Smithgall and Ging, the store’s predecessor, which was established in 1932.

The store’s unique country feel in an urban setting will be missed by many. Visitors entered by pressing on a thumb latch on the handle on the front door. On the floor, ceramic tile pieces, each laid in place.

He got started young.

“My dad was a butcher on our farm in the 1950s,” he said. Before school he dispatched chickens and hogs for sale at the former Market House, the city growers market at the entrance to the Market Street Bridge.

Waltman was 19 years old, and he had to take over the business when his father took ill.

Over the years, many workers in the Central Business District made Waltman’s a regular stop.

Senior District Judge Allen P. Page III, who had an office the courthouse, liked the chicken salad. “Allen always got a chicken salad sandwich,” Waltman said.

So popular was the chunky pieces of chicken, mayonnaise, celery, onion and spices, the salad was sold during a fundraiser held at the Genetti Hotel, Waltman said.

A quart of the chicken salad once was purchased in an auction for $500. R.J. Ertel, mechanical construction/plumbing company in South Williamsport, bought it, he said.

Another popular food sold by Waltman was broasted chicken.

He sold the chicken annually at the Grange Fair at Centre Hall for 25 years.

The fair, which is an encampment of 1,000 or more merchants in tents and visitors in recreational vehicles, was among his favorite memories.

“We sold seven tons of roasted chicken in a week,” he said.

The chicken glistened in the ovens, drippings falling off its golden skin. The aroma wafted across the fairgrounds and drew hundreds of customers in from 3:30 to 8 p.m., Waltman recalled.

Other fond memories of pleasing patrons and networking will be missed, he said.

“You build relationships over the years,” he said.

Among the cherished employees were Abe Winter and Corey Sheets.

Winter retired at age 88 and died two years ago at 97. He was with Waltman making scrapple, sausage, liver pudding and selling it to customers from the 1970s through 2018. He also worked at Smithgall and Ging before then.

Sheets was “like a son” to Waltman. He worked for 10 years at the store, passing away recently at the age of 49.

Sheets’ obituary was cut out and on the counter where he used to serve customers.

Waltman said the loss of his sister, Sheets and Winter hit him hard in 2020, but he kept plugging away until this year, when he decided that it was enough.

Customers heard about his retirement plans and begged him not to close.

But his decision was made.

“No, I’m retired,” he said.

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