'Kielbasa Joe' Chontos passes away at the age of 79

Posted at 12:45 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 12:45:47-04

"Kielbasa Joe" Chontos passed away Sunday at the age of 79. In his honor, we wanted to re-share out our story profiling Chontos in January 2019.

Story below

On a quiet street corner on Oak Street in Wyandotte, a small part of the flavor of the old Detroit Delray neighborhood survives.

"Kielbasa Joe" or "Smoking Joe" Chontos is still making sausages in his Wyandotte store the way he was taught as a boy - and from the age of 13 has been perfecting his craft ever since.

And for most of those 60 years, people from near and far have been keeping the family-run operation very busy.

Decades of trial and error and formulations for over 30 varieties of sausage are found no these cards, but perhaps the secret of Joe's success is his flexibility, and his willingness to listen to his customers.

There are now four generations of the Chontos family that work at the store.

The days are long...and sometimes require Joe to come in twice a day to check the smokers.

And he really hasn't considered retirement.

After every production run, the Chontos family samples a little bit of the sausage they made that day, and it almost always reaffirms that Joe is still on top of his game.

Watch Photojournalist John Ciolino's story in the player above.