One of Seattle’s most recognizable meat snack makers is saying goodbye to its iconic Rainier Avenue location. On Sunday, March 21, the original 1953-built Oberto shop — known for its emphatic neon Oh Boy! sign — will close permanently, making way for an extension of the nearby Hamlin Robinson School, which helps students with dyslexia and other learning-based challenges. Oberto will continue its retail sales and factory operations in Kent and Renton.
Oberto has been around for more than 100 years, selling sausage, beef jerky, hot links, and other popular smoked meat products for retail. Art Oberto, son of original founder Constantino, bought the 1715 Rainier Avenue building in 1953. It served as the business’s main headquarters for the next couple of decades as sales took off with Art and his wife Dorothy at the helm. Eventually, Oberto grew out of the hybrid factory, shop and deli, expanding south to Kent to operate out of larger facilities, eventually building a factory store in Renton as well. Most recently, the Oh Boy! building became sort of a mini Oberto museum, displaying memorabilia and press clippings.
In 2018, the Oberto family sold the business to Canadian conglomerate Premium Brand Holdings, though the main operations have stayed in the Seattle area. Since that transaction, Oberto has expanded its product line and ramped up national distribution, but the company ran into some problems recently. In January 2020, Oberto paid a $47,175 penalty to the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to report storage of hazardous chemicals in a timely manner at its Kent facility. (The violations occurred before the sale to Premium Brand Holdings.) It also recalled a smoked sausage product last August due to misbranding and an undeclared allergen.
Its Seattle departure may make some wistful for the good ol’ days, but the business emphasized the positive side of the real estate move, which had been anticipated for years (the property was sold in 2019).
“The Hamlin Robinson School builds on the value my grandparents, Art and Dorothy Oberto, placed on education,” Stephen Oberto, vice president of marketing, says in a statement. “They believed that all kids can have success in the future through the opportunity of quality early learning. While this transition comes with mixed emotions, I am confident that the Hamlin Robinson School will add tremendous value to the community of Seattle.”