Dusty Rhodes has held a variety of jobs throughout his life, the most recent of which was driving students at Kent City Schools.
For six years the Kent native drove a school bus, where he picked up the nickname "Mr. D" from his students.
Throughout the past 18 years one thing has remained the same — his signature sausage.
Rhodes joked that he opened Mr. D's Market across from Oak Knolls Golf in May 2012 out of "foolishness."
"I've been making sausage for over 18 years for family and friends," he said. "Everybody kept after me to open a store because I make a tremendous product."
It's not purely foolishness that draws customers from Pittsburgh, Garfield Heights, Warren, Youngstown and other far-flung areas of the region. Rather, it's Rhodes' fresh Polish Kielbasa, Chablis Wine and Romano Cheese sausage and sweet Italian sausage — among other delicious offerings.
Mr. D's isn't just about sausage, though it's plentiful in his deli case. Rhodes also offers specialty cut or ground beef, chicken deli meats and cheeses.
You might also stop in for a quick sandwich, some hot soup, a fresh-cut steak on the grill or some Boar's Head deli products either on your way home or for lunch.
But Rhodes admits, "the sausage is my signature."
"I try to buy as much locally as I can," he said. "I'm very particular about the cuts of pork I use to make my sasusage."
The pork comes from local farms. The cases are all-natural, and he always uses an 80 percent lean meat to 20 percent fat ratio.
The recipes have developed over the years and incorporate "only the best seasonings and spices" Rhodes can buy. Flavors vary from hot and mild Italian sausage to hot Hungarian, stuffed pepper and other tastes.
During summer months, Mr. D's busy season, you can find 14 different flavors of sausage in his deli case.
Local grilling afficionado Marilyn Sessions, who with her husband Brian competes in regional grilling competitions, is a fan of Mr. D's Market and first discovered the market last summer. Sessions volunteered for the Kent Jaycees and cooked sausages from Mr. D's along with offerings of German beer as a fundraiser during the Main Street Kent International Festival.
"The brats are our favorites; grill them 'low and slow' to keep all their juices in, and throw in a chunk of soaked apple wood for an extra bit of good smoky flavor," Sessions said. "Afterwards keep them warm in a stock pot with beer in it. It’s a Super Bowl staple not to be missed!"
In the spring, Rhodes plans to apply with the state for a liquor license to sell carry out beer and wine. He also plans to expand to offer barbecue meats.
Right now sales are slow, as it's very much a seasonal business. Winter hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
But Rhodes is optimistic, as he signed a long-term lease for his location on S.R. 43, which sees more than 26,000 cars pass by each day.
He is hopeful people will stop by on their way to and from work to finalize their dinner plans.
"It takes time to establish yourself," he said.