WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- "As far as butchering goes, that would be my strong suit," said Joe Meloni. "I cut meat with my dad."
Meloni, unfortunately, lost his father suddenly in 1990. Despite that, he carried on the family tradition of butchery and started a new brick-and-mortar shop in Washington Township.
Meloni's Butcher Block has been a community staple for nearly three decades. And many family members, including Meloni's brother and sister, have joined its ranks. And once he was old enough, Meloni's son, also named Joe, hopped on board.
"He came and started working here too," said Meloni. "But while he was in college at Drexel for nutrition, he said, 'You know, Dad, I'm vegan.'"
The practice of veganism calls for a diet of foods that are not produced by animals.
"He was definitely afraid to tell me," said Meloni.
Still, the younger Joe Meloni was honest with his father and eventually got the green thumbs-up.
"We had people who were coming in and asking for more meatless options at Meloni's," said Meloni Jr. "And then I made these eggplant meatballs."
His recipe was a hit and became a mainstay at Meloni's. But the young entrepreneur's ambition for vegan options grew into its own store next door, called, "Taste: Plant Based." Its doors opened in November 2021.
Meloni Jr. thanked everyone in his family for making it possible, especially his dad.
"I think just my time spent working under him," he said, "Kind of gave me the confidence that I could do this type of thing."
And Joe Meloni Sr. couldn't be more proud.
"He's my son. That's what he wants to do," he said. "And, you know, God bless him and let him, you know, follow his dreams."