They come from far and wide and close by to peruse and purchase an impressive variety of German-style meats provided by Binkert's Meat Products' small but thriving retail outlet in a modest red brick building in Rosedale that formerly housed a blacksmith shop.
The company, started by Egon Binkert in 1963 — a decade after immigrating to the United States — and now run by his daughter, Sonya, and son-in-law, Lothar Weber, also supplies a variety of restaurants in the greater Baltimore-Washington area with specialty, hormone-free meats to the tune of $1.3 million in annual sales.
Binkert learned his trade under Paul Schafer, "whose delicatessen and gift shop on Eutaw Street stood near the old Ford's Theatre and was not far from the Hippodrome," according to a 2008 story in The Baltimore Sun.
The same story says that at the turn of the 20th century, one in four Baltimoreans spoke German as their mother tongue. "German cooking was commonplace, as were German-speaking church congregations."
Despite 46.5 million people, or 15.2 percent of the population, claiming German ancestry in the 2000 U.S. Census — the largest such nationality or ethnic group in the country — these days, there are fewer places to find German food in the Baltimore area.
An exception is Mueller's Delicatessen in Parkville, which buys its meats from Binkert's, located at 8805 Philadelphia Road, just north of the busy intersection with Rossville Boulevard. So does the newest area German eatery, Das Bier Haus in Federal Hill.
There are many more German-oriented restaurants and delicatessens in the Washington area, including the German Gourmet in Falls Chuch, Va. and the Cafe Mozart, that use Binkert's meats.
"We used to get meats from Schafer's," said Edward Mueller, 83, whose father, George, opened the delicatessen in 1947. "Now we get it here. It's a good, quality product."
All Binkert meats and seasonings are purchased from local sources, and the products are handcrafted daily in a processing area adjoining the store that turns 8,000 pounds of meat per week into 30 kinds sausages, cold cuts and salamis.
"We don't butcher anything here," Sonya Weber said. "But we put the meat in a grinder and put it into casings. We can cook it and smoke it."
She has been working in the family business since she can remember, learning its many facets from the ground up.
"When you have a family business, that's what you do," said Weber, 60, who was born and raised in Towson, lived in Germany for six years and moved back home in time to take over the business with her German-born husband, Lothar, in 1999. "I washed pans and cleaned (sausage) casings. Growing up, my weekends were always spoken for."
Seeing a need to increase Binkert's retail space and sales, the Webers reconfigured the store when they took over for Egon, 96, who just returned to his native land for a visit.
On a recent weekday, a steady stream of customers filtered into the store.
Two of them, Toni McDermott and Brenda Hoyt, had driven an hour from Boyds in Montgomery County to purchase nearly $90 worth of precooked bratwurst (sausage made with veal, pork or beef), bauernwurst (smoked sausage with mustard seed), tiroler (ham with garlic and cracked pepper), liverwurst (liver sausage) and Holsteiner salami rings (pork and beef with mustard seeds, smoked and dried), among other items.
"We found out about the store when we were at the Schifferstadt (Architectural) Museum for Octoberfest in Frederick," Hoyt said. "They said the sausages that were sold there were from Binkert's. We didn't know where it was, but now we know."
McDermott, who said that her Teutonic surname — Rupp — may predispose her to favoring the delicacies, has another link to the food.
"My father-in-law was stationed in Germany and lived with a family with herr and frau — I can't remember their last name," she said. "But that's where he got a taste for real German food. And he passed it on to my husband, who really loves the bauernwurst."
The previous day, a customer from Florida stopped by to pick up $200 worth of meats on his way back to the Sunshine State.
"That's not that uncommon," said Mike Cassidy, who was working behind the deli case with his mother, Rebecca Cassidy. "They come from all over the area, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware — and from a lot farther."
Another customer, Perry Hall resident Gretchen Smith, didn't have to drive quite as far to get her German food fix.
She said that she "drops in a couple of times a year," and was introduced to the products by her parents years ago.
"You just can't this kind of food anywhere else," the Parkville native said.
Her son, Garrett, 14, is more drawn to the bread Weber imports from a bakery in Toronto.
"I like it because it's drier and lighter (than most other breads)," said Garrett, who will be a freshman at Calvert Hall when school resumes.
Customers like Garrett Smith, who are also attracted to the store's other products, will find an array of German condiments, sauerkraut, red cabbage, honey, currant and lingonberry preserves, noodles, gravy mixes, pickles, coffees and chocolates awaiting them.
"You could say the retail side of the business was underdeveloped until we took over," Sonya Weber said. "There was a lull in the business when German immigration stopped for awhile and the older folks started fading away. But now their children and grandchildren are coming in and, for some reason, their are a lot of younger Germans in the area. So, we're doing pretty well."