A part of every trip I take for Independent Processor is the gamble that I can actually find the meat company in question, armed with my notoriously lousy sense of direction and a GPS that occasionally thinks I’ve driven off the road when I’m on an interstate. In the case of Wahoo Locker, it was pretty easy to find. Just look for the massive, 40-foot-long green awning that says “HOME OF THE FAMOUS WAHOO WIENER.”
It wasn’t always that way for Wahoo Locker. After walking through the spacious store and its large coolers, I went next door to the former location, which was destroyed in a fire in 2013. Charlie Emswiler had warned me about how small it was, and he wasn’t kidding. It would have been difficult to have four or five shoppers in the retail area at once, to say nothing of a crowd of Nebraska football fans on the way to Lincoln for a game.
Wahoo Locker was already on the rise before its building burned. The fire was a stumbling block, but it did give the company the chance to move onto bigger and better things. A new facility allowed for federal inspection, which has opened up a new customer base Wahoo Locker never had. A new, beautiful retail area has become a destination for shoppers across Nebraska.
The meat industry presents its fair share of normal challenges — equipment breakdowns, recalls, endless streams of paperwork. Those are difficult enough to deal with, but a disaster that claims your entire operation? I can’t think of anything more overwhelming. Yet, there are always stories about companies that were faced with a total loss, and built themselves back up to be better than before.
When we launched Independent Processor, one of the first stories I wrote was about four Louisiana companies that were affected by Hurricane Katrina, and what they went through to get back into business. That was in 2008. I’m glad to see that, on the 10th anniversary of Katrina, all four companies are still in business. The businesses may have changed some, but they refused to give up.
Read on to learn about how Wahoo Locker came back from its fire. To read my 2008 article about Crescent City Meats, Patton’s Sausage, Chisesi Bros. and Scariano Bros., go to http://bit.ly/ipnola2008.