LANCASTER, Wis. — The owners of a new specialty meat store quickly discovered that southwest Wisconsin has a hearty appetite.
The Meat Schoppe recently opened at 109 N. Madison St. in Lancaster and carries enough flavors and cuts in its meat cases to satisfy even the hungriest food connoisseur.
“Ribeyes, filets, your T-bones, porterhouses — those really tender, flavorful cuts of meat have been really popular,” said Kelsi Retallick, general manager and co-owner. “We’ve sold a lot of brats for the weekend. People want to come in and pick up some hamburger patties to throw on the grill at night.”
Retallick comes from a four-generation farm family that raises Angus beef cattle in Glen Haven under the leadership of her parents, Kevin and Keri Retallick.
Their first major venture into the world of food retail carries a steep learning curve, said Keri, who has spent the better part of a year bringing her dream to fruition.
The new business occupies the site of the former Blue Boy Bakery, which closed in April 2020 in the wake of declining sales.
Keri, who also works in Lancaster as executive vice president of the Wisconsin Pork Association, often passed the empty storefront and saw an opportunity.
“I kept seeing this beautiful building sitting empty,” she said.
Producing value-added products, such as brats or marinated steak, to sell to consumers directly is a popular trend within the agricultural sector, according to industry experts.
Farmers have looked to diversify revenue streams in the wake of falling commodity prices and have sought methods to distinguish themselves from their competitors.
Consumers, meanwhile, pay more in exchange for convenience and the satisfaction that they are supporting local producers.
“There are so many times farmers, ranchers raise their cattle up, and then they sell it to the market,” Keri said. “You get your check, and you don’t think about it getting harvested.”
But following the meat downstream — which takes about two years from conception to display case — requires mountains of research.
The Retallicks consider additional costs, ranging from packaging to the four staff they have hired to operate the business.
“You need to know what your price points are,” Keri said.
Of course, they also have to learn how to best fill the needs of their customers, who might not know the difference between beef cuts, Kelsi said.
The family has made it a point to carry locally made products. In addition to their beef from Glen Haven, they source their pork from a Lancaster farm and chicken from Platteville.
After the meat is butchered, they cut and season it in house, using flavors to stimulate the senses.
The Meat Schoppe carries other Wisconsin-made products, including cheese, eggs, maple syrup, coffee, pickles, jams and mustard.
Seeing the Lancaster storefront filled again is encouraging, said Heather Bontreger, executive director of Lancaster Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re beyond ecstatic,” she said. “More and more, you see other businesses concentrated on local (offerings).”