Hoffman's Meat Market is under new ownership after 35 years
For the first time in almost 35 years, you won't find either Henry or Bonnie Hoffman behind the counter at Hoffman's Meat Market in Detroit Lakes.
Randy Gravelle, a part-time employee at Hoffman's since 1996, took over the reins of the business last month.
Gravelle is a Detroit Lakes native whose parents, Ann and Earl Gravelle, owned and operated Lakes Processing in Detroit Lakes for more than 25 years.
"I grew up in the business," he said. "I've been cutting meat since I was five years old."
Though his nine siblings all live in the lakes area at present, "I'm the only one who didn't drift," said Gravelle, referring to the fact that unlike his brothers and sisters, he has never really lived anywhere else.
Though he has taken over ownership of the business from the Hoffmans, Gravelle said he doesn't plan to make many changes.
"I'm going to continue what Henry and Bonnie have built here," he said.
Henry Hoffman purchased Larson's Town & Country Meat Market from Duane and LaMae Larson, and reopened it as Hoffman's Meat Market on Sept. 15, 1975.
But he was a part of the business even before that.
"I started working for Duane (Larson) when he opened the meat market," Henry said. "Then I purchased it from him -- and now we want to pass it on."
Like the Gravelles, Henry and Bonnie Hoffman brought their two children up in the meat business.
"They both worked here as soon as they were old enough to do something," Henry said.
But unlike Randy, the Hoffmans' children didn't continue with the family enterprise.
"They grew up, got married and moved away," Henry said.
Enter Randy Gravelle, who was looking for a second business to complement his other local endeavor, R & R Grounds-keeping.
"I like the work," Randy said. " I enjoy cutting meat, and it fits in well with my other business."
R & R Groundskeeping has a year-round crew of two full-time employees, adding about six more to handle the summer workload.
There are about seven or eight employees at Hoffman's as well, he added.
Though Gravelle knows he'll do a good job, he also recognizes that "I've got big shoes to fill. Henry's got a great reputation."
"I've got a lot of confidence that Randy will do OK," said Henry Hoffman. "Bonnie and I would like to wish him the best of luck."
For his part, Henry plans to enjoy retirement, though "I may come down and help him (Randy) out once in a while. Hopefully, it will be an easy transition."
He and Bonnie have no plans to move away from Detroit Lakes anytime soon.
"We like Minnesota," he said. "We live in the woods, and we immensely enjoy it and the wildlife that comes with it. We hope to spend more time enjoying that."
Henry has enjoyed the meat business over the years, though he acknowledges that the industry has changed a great deal since he started cutting meat more than 35 years ago.
"We used to do more custom processing of beef and pork for home lockers," he said.
When Hoffman started in the business, there were more small farmers who raised their own beef and pork, he explained; now, there are very few left who don't purchase their meat from the local market.
"People don't raise beef and pork like they used to," he said.
In the beginning, custom processing was 30 to 40 percent of his business; now, that amount is closer to the 15-30 percent range.
As a result, Hoffman's has become "more retail oriented," Henry said.
"We're not only handling fresh meat, but also preparing (i.e., pre-cooking) beef, pork and chicken," he said.
"It's much more convenient for people who don't have the time to cook and bake at homes.
"That's probably been the biggest change. We got into cooking and preparing foods to pick up the slack from custom processing."
Hoffman is very thankful for the customers who have continued to patronize his meat market over the years, and hopes that they will continue to do so now that Randy has taken over the business.
"We hope all the people who shopped with us will continue to shop here and give Randy their business," said Henry.