All photos by Ryan Mooney
Karl's Sausage Kitchen and European Market is now unofficially open for business at its new location at 1 Bourbon Street in Peabody.
Owners Bob and Anita Gokey held an informal ribbon cutting ceremony this morning with family and close friends, and will officially announce their arrival in the Tanner City next week or early next month during a ceremonial ribbon cutting with Mayor Ted Bettencourt and the Peabody Chamber of Commerce.
"We are very excited," Anita said as the first customers entered the new store just after 9 a.m.
She's not alone. For decades Karl's Sausage Kitchen has been a landmark on Route 1 in Saugus where its iconic sign featuring a seven-foot-long sausage, which has yet to be delivered to the new location, has drawn the attention of passing motorists.
Their traditional German fare has a fan base encompassing all of New England. Anita says the store has regular customers that make the journey from as far away as Maine to stock up on the roughly 55 varieties of home-made sausages, and residents of West Peabody who have frequented the establishment for years are happy to have Karl's in the neighborhood.
Hank Finkel, hard to miss standing at 7-feet tall, was one of the first in line. A former professional basketball player who spent the last six of his nine NBA seasons with the Celtics in the 1970s, Finkel now lives just outside of West Peabody in Lynnfield.
"I think it's great," he said of the new location. "It took me nine minutes to get up here."
Finkel, who's mother emigrated from Deutschland and is proud to call himself 100 percent German, comes for the hot dogs, which helped Karl's win a Phantom Gourmet Great 8 award in 2001.
"I also get the braunwurst, the bratwurst, but those compliment the hot dogs," Finkel said. "I come for the hot dogs."
Plaque's commemorating the store's Phantom Gourmet Greatest Sausages award from 2004 and numerous Wicked Local Readers' Choice awards for Best Deli can also be found inside, just not yet hanging on the currently barren walls as aesthetic work continues.
Anita estimates it will be about mid-September before they are fully settled in to the new location. One of the big additions is a cafe that will serve beer, wine, Northern European sandwiches, sausages and weekly German specials, which can seat about 20 people and will open in the next couple of weeks.
"That's something we're still getting up and running," Anita said.
The cafe is good for those who have traveled from far and wide, such as John and Natalie Lyons, and want to have a bite before getting back on the road. The Lyons' were stocking up before heading back to Buffalo, New York, and although they didn't make the trip specifically to visit Karl's, they are well aware of its cult following.
"My mother's German, and we were just visiting and she's been telling us about this, 'Oh they're moving right next door,'" John said. "We're heading back home today and we had to stop and load up on German stuff.
The new location also includes a viewing window - where patrons can watch sausages being made - a feature of the Saugus location that the Gokey's felt needed to be preserved, and increased space for retail, and the deli and cheese counters. Anita says the retail space is about four times larger than it was in Saugus.
Stephanie Hines, a family friend and part-time employee of the Gokey's, says the physical act of moving went smoothly. The Gokeys close the store for a week-long vacation every summer, usually at the end of July or middle of August, and pushed it back a bit this year to make the move without having to be closed for longer than usual.
"They really put a lot of hard work into this, so it's nice to see it come to this, to come together like this," Hines said. "There's so many people that have been coming to Karl's for years and years and years, and it's exciting to see them all here, too."
Ryan Mooney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.