In 1952, Ray and Mary Knight opened Knight’s Market, a small grocery store on the West Side in Ann Arbor. At the time, says their son Bob Knight, there were 47 independent grocers in town. “Now, it’s only us and White Market.”
Bob now manages the family business, with his sister Sherry. He is also the butcher. Brother Don runs Knight’s restaurant, further west on Miller. Brother Jeff, an attorney, does the books. Brother Chester is the maintenance guy. Spouses, grandkids, nieces, and nephews have all done their turn. It’s “all family,” says Bob with pride, laughing that his father used to say, “There’re 168 hours in the week. I get you for 40. What you do the other 128 is your business.” Yet none of them ever caused the family serious trouble.
Knight’s is not just about family values; it’s about quality. Go to a local restaurant or tavern and order a hamburger. Chances are excellent that they’ll boast their meat is from Knight’s. While the grocery business still thrives, about 75% of the business comes from supplying meat. Among these are Casey’s, Fraser’s, and Old Town, all on our Odyssey list.
The key to good beef, says Bob, is consistency. “Cooks are weirdos,” he explains, “always trying something different.” But the one thing they can rely on is the product they receive from Knight’s. Bob buys his meat carefully, and it may come from various ranches throughout the US and Canada. It is always 97% lean, from the “knuckle” or the round section directly to the rear of the sirloin section. Bob then mixes this with prime fat, to reach his optimum ratio of 85% lean to 15% fat. “That’s the key – the flavor’s in the fat.” Bob utilizes a tester which cooks down the meat and renders out the fat into a vial, and tells him exactly what the percentage is.
“It’s important that it’s all the same product,” insists Bob. “If you come to Knight’s on Wednesday and have spaghetti and meatballs, and go back the next week and it’s different, you won’t come back.” Bob has the same high standards for his chicken and his all-albacore tuna salad, among everything else he sells.
The big and jovial Bob Knight resembles your stereotypical butcher, perhaps more so than does Jennifer Tucker of Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Bob appreciates his “steaks rare and burgers well done – but I don’t want a hockey puck, either.”
In this day where the latest food trend is buying local, don’t overlook your neighborhood grocer. The Knights’ family values, commitment to quality, and consistency make their market continue to stand out, going strong after 59 years of dedicated service to our community.
Knight's Market is located at 420 Miller St. For more info, 734-665-6494 or knightsmeatmarket.com