Alumni opens family-run Milano Smokehouse Meats in Ishpeming

With her father, Katelyn Milano begins co-owning the shop with big plans to come.
OPENING SOON -  Katelyn Milano (left) and her father (right) outside of their new business, Milano Smokehouse Meats. Located in the old building of Glenns Smokehouse in Ishpeming, the shop is set to open in mid-April.
OPENING SOON – Katelyn Milano (left) and her father (right) outside of their new business, Milano Smokehouse Meats. Located in the old building of Glenn’s Smokehouse in Ishpeming, the shop is set to open in mid-April.
Tony Anderson

Katelyn Milano always dreamed of opening her own restaurant, she just didn’t think it would be this soon. When her dad brought the idea of co-owning and opening a shop together last year, she had no hesitations. 

“I’ve always wanted to do a soup and sandwich cafe, which we will end up doing with this spot that we have now,” Milano said. “I had a little bit of vision. This was completely opposite of what I thought at first, but it’s happening now.”

Milano is now a co-owner of Milano Smokehouse Meats in Ishpeming, with plans to officially open the shop later this month. 

Milano and her family moved to the U.P. seven years ago when she was a freshman in high school. They moved around a lot during her childhood, so once Milano came to the U.P. she knew she wanted to stay.

Story continues below advertisement

“It has always been my family’s dream to own some property and start a homestead,” Milano said. “I’ve moved around my entire life, so I decided this is where I’m gonna stay. I don’t want to move around anymore … I’m just gonna stay as local as I can.”

She stayed local for college as well, attending NMU for hospitality and tourism management. She focused on culinary studies and tourism business, before graduating in 2022.

“I learned about hotels and lodging, how to run a restaurant,” Milano said. “All the business aspects of tourism.”

Her education at NMU set her up for success with her current endeavors, especially with knowledge of working in the kitchen and running her own business.

“When I was younger, my parents would tell you that I hated cooking. I wouldn’t even cook mac and cheese,” Milano said. “But I secretly did enjoy doing it, I just didn’t want to do the work. As I got older, I really liked messing around with recipes and figuring out what I like to do. I’m a very picky eater, so being able to make my own food was good. But then I learned more of the aspects behind everything and now I go into a restaurant and be like, ‘wow, like this took a lot of work to get here.’”

Now opening up Milano Smokehouse Meats, Milano has developed an even greater appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes. The business has had a tight timeline, with the ideas, preparation and planning taking place over the past six months. 

“It used to be Glenn’s Smokehouse and [Glenn Andrews] has passed,” Milano said. “He was my dad’s mentor and he was really really close to our family.”

Andrews was a mentor to Milano as well as to her father. She learned many things from both of them, and is looking forward to continuing the smokehouse tradition with some of her own additions.

Despite taking over the building from Glenn’s smokehouse, they are creating Milano Smokehouse Meats from scratch. The biggest challenge right now is completing all of the new licensing, ordering new equipment and establishing consistent supply connections. As a co-owner, Milano focuses more on the paperwork and management of the business, while her dad focuses more on the meats.

“Starting from the ground up, even though Glenn’s was an established food business, having to figure out how to get all the licenses and how to deal with the health department has been very tricky,” Milano said. “We don’t have very good shipping up here, so everything has been very delayed.”

Milano Smokehouse Meats does not have a set opening date yet, but they are hoping to have all of their equipment ready to go by mid-April. Located on 1040 Country Lane in Ishpeming, they will be open Monday through Saturday with most of the staff being part of the Milano family. 

“Since we’re very family oriented, we wanted to keep it family driven. Our slogan is ‘Taste the Tradition’ and we want to implement our traditions into it,” Milano said. “My family is Hispanic, and we want to do pop-up tamales and stuff like that.”

The shop will mostly be a retail meat shop with specialty meats and fish sourced from local areas, including the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). They will gradually add hot foods to their menu, including soups, sandwiches and other specialty menu items.

Additionally, Milano Smokehouse Meats has partnered with a YouTube butcher (Bearded Butcher) to sell seasonings and specialty seasoned meats. Milano wanted to include more of the community, so she reached out to local artists on Facebook, and the shop will now provide a space for artists to sell things like handmade cutting boards, aprons and maple syrup. 

As they continue to make connections and establish local partnerships, Milano has also considered working with her old program at NMU.

“We were talking recently about selling to some local restaurants and working with the hospitality and tourism management group so that they can get dried meats and specialty meats that they can’t get elsewhere,” Milano said. “So, we’ll probably be working with the college a little bit too.”

As the business grows in the future, Milano will eventually take over the business as the full owner, with her family continuing to help out part-time. There are many ideas and dreams for the future, but right now, she is simply looking forward to opening Milano Smokehouse Meats for the first time.

“It’s been a long process and I’m excited to bring it back to the community. We’ve had a really really good response so far,” Milano said. “I’m excited to get it going again.”

More to Discover