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Innovative St. Joseph Meat Market wins Beef Backer Award

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 04/19/2013 3:13 PM

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ST. JOSEPH, Minn. — It's 6:15 a.m., and the St. Joseph Meat Market is open.

The early hour doesn't faze employees.

Shoppers can find it difficult to decide what to buy from the variety of items the market offers.

Morning customers seek luncheon meats, beef sticks, breads and cheeses. Other meat products — smoked turkeys and hams, roasts, steaks and burgers — are ready to be packaged.

St. Joseph Meat Market's focus on service, cleanliness and innovative products has earned it the Minnesota Retail Beef Backer Award. Owner Harvey Pfannenstein accepted the honor at the recent Minnesota Meat Processors Convention.

The award, presented by the Minnesota Beef Council, recognizes retailers who "go above and beyond to promote beef to their customers."

Selections are based on store promotions, outstanding customer service, safety, new and creative beef products and employee training.

Pfannenstein and his siblings learned it all from their parents, Al and Virginia. The siblings create innovative products.

The market's newest product, omelet patties and brats, is one example. Pfannenstein holds a package of the product, which was created by his son, Daniel. Daniel, who works part-time at the market, likes omelets and came to work one day ready to make it into a patty.

"He got it right the first time he made it," Pfannenstein said.

Everything you'd expect in an omelet is in there — eggs, hashbrowns, green pepper, spices and meat. Daniel entered it in the MMP contest where it placed in the top five. Beef omelets, pork omelets and brats are sold at the market.

They also take product suggestions. Former KASM farm broadcaster Cliff Mitchell requested a "funeral hot dish" sausage. He mentioned it during a broadcast advertising the store, and the Pfannensteins quickly responded. Mitchell's wife made a hot dish, which the market used to make the sausage. It was a hit.

At the core of St. Joseph Meat Market is a knowledge of meat and meat processing that got its start when the business was formed. Pfannenstein said the business changed hands from Mike Klein to area farmer John Pfleuger in 1948. Pfleuger knew the basics of butchering and customer service and hired Al Pfannenstein to help.

When Pfleuger retired, the elder Pfannenstein took over in 1968. Each of his eight children worked in the market, and Harvey bought it in 1998. Three of his brothers also work at the store.

His nieces, nephews and his children worked in the store and continue to help out, he said. His wife, Carol, works full time at the Collegeville Credit Union and helps with the market's bookkeeping. His mother, Virginia, is a frequent visitor.

He stresses the importance of customer service and cleanliness.

When new employees start, one of their first jobs is to clean the restrooms and the floors.

"My dad always said that if you have a clean place, people will come back, and equally important was his message that you need to make the customer feel special," Pfannenstein said.

For many years, St. Joseph Meat Market did it all in one building. As the business grew, Pfannenstein recognized the need to expand. His father knew it, too, and encouraged him.

A retail store was built near the processing plant nearly two years ago.

Al Pfannenstein didn't live to see its completion, but his influence remains.

Mondays are slaughter days at the USDA-inspected processing plant.

Work flow was key when Pfannenstein designed the retail store's floor plan. From a loading area, meat is moved to other rooms for additional processing.

A smoke room handles hams and turkeys. The sausage room, with attached spice storage, is where meat is mixed and made into patties or links.

St. Joseph Meat Market also delivers meat products to several stores and restaurants including Maddens and the Butcher and the Boar.

St. Joseph Meat Market is open Monday through Thursday from 6:15 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays from 6:15 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturdays from 6:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. The business is closed Sundays.

For more information, check its website