Common Ground with… Joe Mazzara

Common Ground with… Joe Mazzara

Joe Mazzara, 60, has spent his whole life in Madison. Joe owns Ken’s Meats & Deli, a kind of corner store on Monona Drive that is renowned for selling meats and promoting other local products from small businesses in the community. Ken’s Meats & Deli also provides catering services for individuals, groups and organizations in Dane County and its environs. 

Mazzara has been into this business for 44 years. His personal and professional interactions with different categories of people, mostly Wisconsinites, make him very knowledgeable about happenings in the Madison community. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge our community faces?

The biggest challenge that we see in the community, obviously, is homelessness. It’s a challenge because there’s so many people who are homeless, and there’s just what it’s gotten to be. I guess growing up seeing nobody homeless, now we’re seeing all these people homeless. I think that’s a big thing on our part. 

I started observing this probably about six years ago, more so right before the pandemic, and now it’s gotten worse obviously since the pandemic. That’s one of the big things that is affecting our community. And then, the amount of crime that’s taken place lately, too. From graffiti to breaking in, to speeding on the streets and things like that. I think that has to do with some of the homelessness, too.  

What do you wish people in our community understood better? 

For a business owner, just the trials and tribulations of hiring people, getting them trained and working with them. The younger generation that’s coming up doesn’t have that work ethics like we used to have 40 some years ago.  But there are a lot of good people out there and hopefully we grab the best out of them all. 

What is one change you would make if you could that would make life better for people in
our community?

Oh, boy! If I knew that answer, I’d be a millionaire, I think. I have no idea how you go about changing the stream that we’re running down. You got to swim upstream——meaning, you’ve got to change things a little bit at a time; It can’t be just abruptly. We do a lot with the food banks in the area, just because they’re overwhelmed with lack of product for their people who come and visit them.  

What in our community gives you hope? 

I think people deep down want to do everything right. They want to make it easier for them to do it right. People want to live in a nice neighborhood. People want to come to places like my place and feel wanted and feel welcome. 

This story has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Joe Mazzara. Photo by Keifa Jaward.
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