Bill Kamp’s Meat Market
A Cut Above: Bill Kamp Keeps Family Legacy Alive
Take a walk on the creaking hardwood floors inside Bill Kamp’s Meat Market and feel your taste buds explode while looking at the thick cuts of sirloin New York strips and filets mignons.
The sense of family is overwhelming in the store as the portraits of Kamp family members look down on the bustling shop, the antique butcher block counter seeing its daily activity as an impossibly large slab of beef is laid on top of it, ready to be turned into steaks that will become the centerpiece of family dinner tables all over the city. The analogy that best embodies the history of Kamp’s is that of the T-Bone—a joining of tender beginnings and flavorful futures held together by the bones of one family who continues to provide Oklahomans with a taste of old times.
"The Kamp family legacy has always been spectacular for us," says third generation butcher Bill Kamp. "The trust my family began building over 100 years ago, which continues today, has been absolutely invaluable."
Interestingly enough, Oklahoma City was never in the plans for Henry Herman Kamp when he set off from St. Louis in April of 1910 in search of the greener pastures of the Pacific Northwest.
A German immigrant, Henry Kamp had worked as a grocery store clerk when he happened into Oklahoma City for a parade celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1889 Land Run. The 25-year-old had $4,000 of inheritance in his pocket and decided he would set up shop in Oklahoma City instead of going any further west.
Having been raised in the food business his whole life, Kamp decided to get his brother Alfred and William over to Oklahoma City to join him and in 1910 together the family opened a general store at NW 25th and Classen Boulevard. It was then a one-counter store that made home deliveries by horse and wagon, sold eggs for 20 cents, milk for a dime and steaks for a quarter a pound. The store would eventually become known as the Kamp Brothers Market.
“They came out here and risked just about everything to start their store,” Bill Kamp said. “Thinking about that gives me a lot of pride in the family business. People trust us intrinsically because of the name our ancestors were able to establish here.”
Henry Kamp's son, Henry William (W.), also known as Junior, was born in the family apartment in 1917. He would later go on to join the family business, opening a butcher shop to add to the grocery store.
Henry Kamp died in July 1981 at ninety-six-years old, but the family's business relationship with the community hasn't ended.
The six Kamp children kept the store running after his death, keeping open both the butcher shop and grocery store until they decidde to sell in the mid 1990s.
Henry W.’s son William (named after Henry’s uncle William), opened Bill Kamp's Meat Market in November of 2001, offering prime cuts of beef along with premium pork and chicken. Bill Kamp's also grinds its own sausage and sells a variety of prepared deli salads, including the ever-popular ham salad.
The atmosphere in Bill Kamp’s today is like sitting around the kitchen during the prep for Thanksgiving, Bill and his fellow butchers poking each other with jokes and jabs as often as they jab steaks with knives and cleavers.
“This is a meat shop, we go straight for the jugular around here,” Bill jokes about the group’s playful banter. “We’ve all been working together for a long time, it’s a lot like family.”
Bill, as all his customers know him, started the market before his dad passed away, and was pleased to have had Henry W. help out behind the counter before he got sick with colon cancer.
He has confidence his dad was proud to see the family name carry on the original family business, and that he continues to look down with pride.
“I know he’s happy,” Bill said. “We are trying to keep things in the same spirit of the original shop, cater to our customer’s every need and give them an experience they can’t have anywhere else.”
The attitude toward impeccable customer service shows in the line that sometimes stretches out the door. Every customer calls for Bill once they get to the counter to get his recommendation on a certain cut of meat, or just to say hi.
Bill seems to know them all by name and oftentimes knows what they will want before they can even ask him for it.
The shop runs like clockwork.
“Someone who wants to come in and have an anonymous shopping experience—this is probably not the place for them,” he said. “There are many customers we know extremely well. We talk to them about everything, not just what they are buying. That’s always been our tradition, know our customers, know what they want. We try to show them what we do, how we cut, why you should shop here and how our quality is really unparalleled.”
The only thing Bill needs help with? Finding somebody to keep the family name going once he’s hung up his butcher’s apron.
His daughter hasn’t shown much interest and at 58, Bill says he’s not sure there is an heir in the family to take over the business.
“When the end game comes for me, I’ve got no one to pass it to,” he said with a laugh. “But I’ll just keep it going for now. I’m sure somebody will come along.”
Bill Kamp’s Meat Market: 7310 N Western Ave, Oklahoma City; 405.843.2455