Meet Your Merchant: Sausage Factory offers link to the past

Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

It was a love of automobiles that brought the Tonino brothers of New Jersey to Northern Nevada 42 years ago, so it's fitting that the heir to their sausage throne would liken the product of his Carson City company to a Cadillac.

"This is really a niche business," said Joseph Tonino, president of the Carson City Sausage Factory. "There's a lot of sausage companies out there. There's a lot of competition. But we don't follow the trends; we just follow making quality. We're building Cadillacs, and everyone's buying Hyundais out there.

"But that's OK. There are certain people who want quality, and that's what we're all about."

In 1968, Joseph's father, Alcide Tonino, brought his Ferrari-loving brother Luciano to Reno to talk to a Fiat mechanic he knew. It was during that visit when the Tonino brothers learned there was a sausage factory in Carson City for sale and they bought it.

Sausage-making had been their forte since their father, Guiseppe, became a butcher while living in Italy. When his sons moved to America, it was Guiseppe who told them to quit working for someone else and make lives for themselves. They bought their first sausage manufacturing company, Ideal Sausage in Hackensack, N.J., in 1954.

"They created an empire and it ran all the way up until 1997," said Joseph.

For years, the Carson City Sausage Factory was run by various managers while the Tonino brothers concentrated on their East Coast business.

But in 1990, just as Joseph was preparing to leave the family business and move to Incline Village to be a ski bum, his father made a plea to Joseph to run the Carson City business for a year.

"So I did what my father taught me," he said.

The 23-year-old boy from New Jersey found himself in the much different city of Carson.

"I was the only guy in town with an espresso machine and I was the only guy in town who drove fast," he said.

One year turned into another.

Before long, 21 years had passed and Joseph never left.

He said wouldn't trade it for anything.

"I'm just happy I can carry on the family tradition," he said.

The business has changed in recent years to keep up with the economy.

The Sausage Factory - which is inspected daily by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - used to do its own sales and distribution. Now it deals with distributors who sell its product to restaurants.

Retail customers can buy Sausage Factory products at Scolari's Market in Gardnerville, chosen because it's a Nevada-based business, and at the Sausage Factory retail shop in the Carson City front office. The deli cases are full of sausages and frankfurters, and Sausage Factory also produces lunch meats like capicola, roast beef, corned beef, bologna, ham and pastrami. The company also does specialty orders. On Thursday, one of its enormous ovens was cooking racks of venison salami for a customer.

"What's made me successful over the years is I take cuts of meat that you would roast," Joseph said. "I take it and spice it properly and make products out of that. The reason why everyone loves my products and why they taste so good is because of the quality of the meats and the quality of the spices - the craftsmanship of the art of sausage making.

"Anybody can go to the store and buy a pound of hot dogs for a buck on sale, but you get what you pay for."


What: Sausage Factory Outlet

Where: 259 Sage St., Carson City

When: 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

To purchase online:

Phone: 775-882-8110


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