Moo & Oink
Moo & Oink was a Chicago, Illinois-based meat company and wholesaler that started at 35th and Calumet Avenue as early as the 1930s or 1940s. The family traces their roots back to 1856 in Russia. There were many relatives that went into the meat business from that family. Calumet was started by a 4th Generation family member. They sold different southern game back then as well as pork, chicken, beef and lamb. They specialized in soul food restaurants and BBQ's. It outgrew the 35th location and moved to 3831 S. Halsted in the 60's. The company came to life in 1973 as the 7th generation took over. They were mostly serving BBQ's and Soul Food Restaurants back then, but the younger generation loved the face to face contact with the retail customers. "I love a crowd" was often heard on busy days. As the wholesale was growing, the newly started retail was taking off with a marketing plan that was completely "out of the box". It was about 1976 the company ordered the mascots Moo & Oink and the company went into orbit. Anyone that saw or heard about the mascots Moo & Oink immediately referred to Calumet as Moo & Oink.
Its many promotional events and ad campaigns also made it a favorite shopping destination for many. Promotions like The 60-second Shopping Spree, 50 lbs. of food for $9.50 (WJPC's number on AM radio), free breakfasts at restaurants, etc., free BBQ's and more spread their customer base here, there, everywhere. Its late-night television commercials played through the late 70s till the early 2000s. In 2004 they had a contest for a new "Rap" commercial. There was a winner, but after 25-years the company stuck with their popular commercial.
At Calumet's first Bud Billiken Parade in the pre-mascot era, employees held signs that said "clap for catfish, "whistle for ribs", "scream for chicken wings" and more. After the parade, the advertising manager's secretary Lillian Bassett started a poem with the signs included. They worked on it and turned it over to DJ, businessman, commercial editor and more, the late Richard Pegue. About 5 months later he returned with a finished version of a commercial "looped" for the next Bud Billiken Parade.
It was one of the early Rap commercials for a business. When the Moo & Oink float first went down Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd you could hear folks singing the jingle as it was printed in a holiday weekend issue of the Daily Defender. After the parade, the jingle was made into a donut and played 52 weeks a year on 6 radio stations and 5 TV stations. By the 3rd year, the jingle was used in the Bud Billiken Parade, 500,000 people on the left side of the street and 500,000 people on the right side of the street sang along with the four 6-foot tall speakers Richard Pegue set up on the Moo & Oink float. It was an amazing show of love by the company that would do anything for their customers and the customers appreciation for the company.
As mentioned above, Moo & Oink were used until 2004 when an ad campaign asking listeners to send in a new Rap commercial went on air for 12 weeks. There were weekly winners and the 10 weekly winners competed in a Final showdown with BBQ for hundreds, as the entrees sang their raps. It was at the Hazel Crest store and a grand time was had by all. In 2005 there was a 12-week ad campaign that starred a Super Hero, the POWER MAN! That last 12 weeks. The characters did not talk until about 2004 or 05, but they danced and made friends with kids and grownups from the very first time they were seen by the public. At one time there were 4 sets of Moo & Oink costumes and all could be around the 4 Moo & Oink stores at block parties, church affairs, and many more community events.
The 60-second radio commercials used a donut (15 seconds of jingle at open, a number of items on sale, and then 15 seconds of jingle at close) started with an attention-getting "Moo and Oink! Moo Moo Moo!" and eventually ends with a well-known sign-off "Moooooooooooooo 'n' Oink!". In 2005, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler sang the opening verse of the Moo and Oink jingle on the "Weekend Update" portion of Saturday Night Live in order to prove to Scott Podsednik that they were native Chicago White Sox fans.
Moo & Oink popularity grew and grew over the years as their policy was to never lose a customer, not one! There were many products that Moo & Oink branded from the 1980s til Oct. 2006. Day-to-day management changed hands in Oct 2006 and the business was soon headed downhill. In April 2010, the remaining owners revealed a new company logo, replacing the classic cartoon-ish cow and pig logo with a logo featuring animated but realistic looking animals.
All Moo & Oink stores closed in 2011, after the company went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, though there was interest in buying and resurrecting the company. By the end of the year, the brand and trademark were sold to Best Chicago Meat. The stores remained unsold.
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- Iconic Chicago meat store closes after 150 years. The family was at least 7 generations in the meat business (traced back to 1856), but Calumet Meat started in the 1930's or 40s. Chicago Tribune. October 1, 2011. Retrieved on October 1, 2011.
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