Made in McDowell: West Court sausage is a local culinary tradition

MIKE CONLEY/MCDOWELL NEWS

Mike Hollifield, owner of West Court Food Center, holds a tray of freshly made sausage. West Court Food Center has become well known for its sausage. It is the only place where you can get this particular kind. The pork comes from pigs that are raised in Hickory.

Editor’s note: The following is the last feature in a series called Made in McDowell, which highlights products made here and used across the state, the nation and even around the world.

For almost 60 years, West Court Food Center has been known in McDowell County as the “working man’s friend” with its outstanding selection of produce and groceries. This supermarket, at 399 W. Court St., in Marion, is small but it’s got one of the best meat departments around.

For years, hungry customers and local restaurant owners alike have relied on West Court Food Center to provide them with a great selection of beef, pork and chicken. The store is known for its sliced ham, processed pork and beef for customers. And it’s probably no coincidence that this was one of the first places to sell Hunter’s Liver Mush.

But West Court Food Center has become well known for its own meat product which is made in the store. For a long time, folks have raved about the delicious sausage made and sold at the store. West Court Food Center is the only place where you can get this kind of sausage.

“They accuse us of being drug dealers,” said store owner Mike Hollifield. “It’s addictive.”

Hollifield, who makes the sausage himself, said it is a well-kept secret. The Rabb family had the recipe and they gave it to John Ray Davis, who operated a store of his own. And then Davis passed the recipe on to Hollifield, who’s been making it for 20 years.

“The seasoning is the recipe,” said Hollifield. “It’s always the ingredients that make it good. We start with good stuff.”

The pork in the sausage comes from pigs that are raised in Hickory. Hollifield takes the pork and adds the seasonings to give it that special flavor. The sausage is made every Wednesday and it takes all day, he said.

The store makes around 450 to 1,200 pounds on Wednesdays and it doesn’t last long once it is packaged and put out for sale.

“It sells out pretty quick,” said Hollifield.

Mike Cantey, owner of Low Country Dining and Catering, said his employees enjoy the sausage because he serves it to them at Christmas.

And during the holiday season, the demand gets even bigger.

“Holidays are stressful,” said Hollifield. “You can’t make enough.”

Gwen Jones, who recently moved to Marion, said Tuesday her family loves West Court’s sausage. “Since we moved down here, it is the only sausage we eat,” she said. “We enjoy it and we intend to keep on buying it.”

During the Jones family’s first day in Marion, they only had two bags unpacked. Her husband C.J. Jones went shopping at West Court and someone suggested he and his family try the sausage. They have been hooked on it ever since.

“It’s not spicy,” said Gwen Jones. “It’s not too hot. When you cook it, it doesn’t shrink into an itty bitty patty. It has a nice consistency.”

“I love sausage!” said her 7-year-old son Jordan Jones.

Eric Carson of Marion is another fan. “It’s just delicious,” he said Thursday. “It’s nicely seasoned. It’s good quality meat. Put it in a biscuit and you are a very happy person.”

The Carson family, longtime residents of Marion, are loyal customers at West Court Food Center and they all love the sausage made there.

“My grandmother bought it here,” said Carson. “My mother bought it here. I buy it here. And I bring my son so he can buy it here. Great customer service. All the meat is good quality.”

“It’s the best you can buy,” said Carlotta Gregory of Nebo. “We always come out there to get it.”

But not just local folks love this meat product. Visitors to Marion and McDowell County who have tasted it quickly want to take some home with them.

“It has gone as far west as California and as far north as Canada,” said Hollifield.

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