The Next Generation: Liehs & Steigerwald

The Next Generation: Liehs & Steigerwald

Shortly after arriving in the U.S. in 1936, Ludwig Steigerwald teamed with fellow German immigrant Curt Liehs, Sr. to open a butcher shop in downtown Syracuse. The duo launched a successful startup in the midst of the Great Depression by providing quality meats and traditional sausages made from heirloom family recipes. Ever since, generations of Syracuse families have grown up enjoying Liehs & Steigerwald products as part of their everyday and special occasion meals.

Known as “the best of the wurst”, Liehs & Steigerwald has become famous for their 18 types of bratwursts made of the freshest cuts of meat without preservatives, fillers or artificial flavors. In addition to bratwursts, the company makes all types of sausages, including spicy chorizo, smoked Italian sausage, and garlic kielbasa. Liehs & Steigerwald earned nationwide acclaim when their hot dog tied for first place with New York City’s Schaller and Weber in an annual ranking by the Rosengarten Report.

In the 1980s, Ludwig’s nephew Bob Steigerwald and Curt Liehs, Jr. took over operations and worked together until Steigerwald became the sole owner in 1998. Bob Steigerwald continued to deliver the quality meats customers had grown to rely on for another dozen years before selling the company to his son Jeffrey and longtime employee Chuck Madonna in 2003. Both Steigerwald and Madonna worked at the downtown butcher shop in their high school days, though Steigerwald started out on a different career path after graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in accounting.

After working in computer science positions in Texas and Michigan, Steigerwald returned to his Syracuse roots when his father was ready to retire: “When I worked for other people, I felt like I was a hard worker. I started to think that I could work for myself if I had the opportunity. The timing worked out that my father was at a point in his life where he was ready to retire and I was ready to move back to my hometown with my young family.”

The new partnership cemented Steigerwald and Madonna’s longtime friendship and with twice the management capacity, the duo set out to strike a balance between honoring traditions and modernizing the business model. One gradual but significant change that the business faced was the shift of residential population from inside the city of Syracuse to the suburbs. Since customers often shop for grocery and produce items closer to home, Liehs & Steigerwald followed their lead and during their first year of ownership, Steigerwald and Madonna opened a second location in the suburb of Clay. The Clay store is open Monday through Saturday, while the Syracuse shop is closed on Mondays for production and smoking. Their suburban location also offers a deli area