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Burb's Eye View: Sausage king has links to past and future

March 13, 2012|By Bryan Mahoney

On San Fernando near the border of Glendale and Burbank, it looks as if someone flew in a sausage haus from Bavaria and dropped it smack between a bank and a blank beige wall.

It wasn’t moved there, though walking into the Continental Gourmet Sausage Company one might feel transported. The deli case is packed with wursts, bologna, pork sausage, blood sausage — nearly every authentic flavor a German foodie could wish for. It’s all made in the spotless kitchen in the back — a matter of personal and professional pride for its owner, self-proclaimed perfectionist Eugen Goetz.

Twenty-five years ago, Goetz bought the place after seeing an ad for its sale in a German newspaper. Working as a waiter and maitre’d in Las Vegas had its thrills, but all the training in his native Germany as a teen was going to waste. Sin City had burned him out. Goetz was a sausage maker, and a sausage maker he would be.

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That same year, a boy named Bill Roche was born in suburban Chicago. He would attend the University of Illinois and earn a history degree.

That his path should cross at all with Goetz’s is something of a mystery to both of them. Yet in 2011, 72-year-old Goetz sold the Continental Gourmet Sausage Company to the 25-year-old Roche and the two have struck a powerful companionship.

The deli’s wall is covered in awards. There are more in the back. Most come from the California Assn. of Meat Processors, and in the 1990s Goetz won their top prize five times. A rare Gold A from the California Department of Health takes up space right behind the cash register.

This is the legacy Roche is learning to shoulder.

“It was a complete shock when I realized what I’m doing, but I really enjoy it,” Roche said. “When I think about it, how many people go to college and come out wanting to be a sausage maker?”

Roche worked his way up to manager for a restaurant in his native Illinois when he was still a student. The restaurant’s owner had another location here, and Roche asked to be transferred. He then learned of the sausages on the restaurant’s menu, and met their creator soon after.

Goetz lives in the apartment building behind the shop. It makes it easier when he gets phone calls at all hours of the day asking him to make a crucial decision (the deli’s phone rings to his home as well). It’s also allowed him to take just four days off in the last 25 years.

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