Amid the stalls and shops of the Italian Market, word has been spreading of the impending retirement of Sonny D'Angelo, whose grandfather opened the family butcher shop on Ninth Street just south of Christian Street in 1910.

When D'Angelo, 67, hangs up his apron at the end of the month after a half-century of work, D'Angelo's Specialty Meats is due to close. The building at 907-09 S. Ninth is being offered for sale privately, according to a neighbor briefed on the plans.

"My customers have been talking about [the closing], and they're quite upset," said Mariella Esposito, who started working at her own family's kitchen emporium, Fante's, in 1981, the year that Sonny D'Angelo took over for his father.

D'Angelos have been butchers for three generations in America and three generations before that in Sicily.

D'Angelo, who is believed to be in good general health, has told intimates that it's time.

"I know he's tired," Esposito said, shaking her head knowingly. "I keep hoping that it's not true, but -."

The one person who can settle the question, Santo "Sonny" D'Angelo III, on Thursday politely declined to discuss his future or that of the shop, over which his mother, Theresa, lives.

D'Angelo, a solid man with wavy dark brown hair, works alone - cutting, lifting, stocking, scrubbing, and making exotic sausages out of elk, wild boar, rabbit, and other meats. He has the occasional helper, but no one regularly wielding the saws or working on more-than-century-old equipment in the shop, whose tiled walls are lined with hooks and stuffed birds and game. Taxidermy and hunting are two hobbies, as are vegetable gardening and raising orchids.

There is no successor, though D'Angelo has told friends that he would train someone who wished to continue as D'Angelo's.

Nearly four years ago, his mother and two brothers briefly considered closing the business and selling the building. As owner of one-quarter of the business, D'Angelo was odd man out. But his brothers and mother relented, and the business remained.