Running a retail store while keeping a successful meat-processing operation running can be a challenge. The best stores serve as more than just a venue that display’s the company’s products. It can be a destination, where people several towns away visit to stock up on bacon, sausages or whatever else is the house specialty. It can entice customers to try new products, impress them with top-notch customer service and become a regular stop as they get their weekly groceries.

Four years ago, Dewig Meats of Haubstadt, Ind. added on a new retail meat market.  Darla Kiesel, who is part of the fourth generation of the Dewig family to work in the business, said that the new addition was built right next to the company’s previous space. There were black curtains separating the two areas, and she says that customers frequently peeked behind the curtain to watch the progress.

“Our customers really enjoyed taking peeks inside to see what was going on. The customers were excited, and they have been very receptive to the new retail,” she says.

It’s no surprise that the new market would cause such a reaction. Dewig Meats’ store boasts 33 self-serve freezer and cooler doors, along with 102 foot-long fresh and processed meat case – more than 40 feet longer than the old case. Kiesel says that the extra space lets the company appropriately display its top products, including hot dogs, bratwurst and German bologna.

“We had never had much of a self-serve area for the first 96 years of our life, but it has taken off,” she says. “We have noticed that the younger crowd really enjoys browsing, picking up and reading about products. They like to take their time and be minimally bothered by clerks.

“The older crowd, however, still likes the one-on-one attention. They are more likely to be found talking with clerks and having help picking out their products,” she adds.

To help compete against larger grocery stores, Dewig Meats strives to provide a better overall shopping experience than a customer can get from a chain. Customer service is a critical part of that.

“At any time I can go get one of my key employees to custom cut a steak, or our catering department to explain how to properly cook a beef brisket,” Kiesel notes.

Another important aspect is cleanliness.

“My personal pet peeve of meat departments in grocery stores is the smell. I promise you that you will not smell old product or fish in my shop,” she says.

Kiesel adds that store employees must be well-trained to provide a level of customer service that isn’t often found at retail anymore.

“The size of our retail and the ‘wow factor’ does help our customers naturally have a nice experience, but we want to also make sure when they have a question that our staff can respond appropriately,” she explains, adding that it’s important for the owner to be present in the store as well.

“A customer loves to see the people that not only own the market but also run the market. they understand the passion that us ‘meatheads’ have for this industry,” she says. “Let them see it; let them see you.”