WABASSO ? Long-time customers at the Wabasso Locker should be pleased to find out that new owner Justin Waknitz is not planning any radical changes to the meat packing business.
Waknitz has settled into the business after assuming ownership on June 1, after the retirement of LaVonne and Leroy Mathiowetz, who owned and operated the Wabasso Locker for 42 years.
"It's the same name, same product, same recipes, but new owner and new hours," Waknitz said. "I'm keeping it about the same as LaVonne had it."
Waknitz found out that the business was up for sale from his brother, Jeremy Waknitz, who currently lives in Lamberton and worked at Wabasso Locker for a couple of years.
"My brother called and let me know the locker was up for sale," Justin Waknitz said. "I went down and worked a few days to see if it was something I'd enjoy. That was last August. I came back in December and worked for three days."
Waknitz had been living in Waterville for the past nine years, working as a farm hand on a grain farm and drove truck before that. But the prospect of owning his own business appealed to him. That, along with the assurance of LaVonne Mathiowetz, helped Waknitz make the decision to go ahead with the opportunity.
"It's a whole new venture for me," he said. "But she's been working with me and training me. She says I'm doing good."
Waknitz said the business was a little overwhelming at first, but he was able to catch his breath the last month.
"When I started out the first month, we were just swamped," Waknitz said. "Then it got slower the last three weeks. That's typically the slow time of the year. But now business has been picking up again. So far, it's going good."
When news started floating around that the Wabasso Locker had been sold, people were worried they wouldn't be able to get the quality products they were used to, Waknitz said.
"Everyone was asking my brother if I'd have LaVonne's recipes," he said. "There's a lot of people who come in just for the recipes that LaVonne had, so I plan on keeping it that way. I might be adding some more recipes, like for the summer sausage, but it's nice to be able to let people know that I'll be keeping her recipes, too."
Though he's aware that customers have been satisfied with the current offerings, Waknitz is considering some other small changes in the near future.
"I plan to add a few different kinds of barbecue ribs," he said. "I'm looking at doing that in the future, but not yet. I also might start making bratwurst, expanding that a little bit."
Waknitz noted the main service is custom processing, where farmers bring their animals in.
"I have a few local farmers that sell the beef to other people and then they drop it off," Waknitz said. "I have a couple of sources, so if anyone wanted to buy a quarter or a half, they could usually get that any time of the year."
Wabasso Locker will also do full deer processing and currently sells steaks, roasts, pork chops, bacon and more.
"We have all frozen products," Waknitz said. "We carry pretty much all that stuff on hand. And possibly in the future, if there is enough call for it, I'll consider putting a fresh meat resale counter in."
Waknitz is proud to continue the longstanding tradition of catering to each and every customer.
"We spend a little more time trimming and cleaning the excess fat off the steaks and roasts," he said. "We also, if people want lean hamburger, offer to trim hamburger down, too. We cut everything to the customer's wishes."
Inside the facility, Waknitz plans to keep everything the same, though there may be a little remodeling done at a later date.
"They kept the building up really well," Waknitz said about the past owners. "So there's not much to do inside."
Though he feels comfortable with the knowledge and experience he's gained the past few months, Waknitz does have the added bonus of having support nearby.
"LaVonne said she'll be in and out of here and if things get busy, she'll come back in and help," Waknitz said. "She planned on retiring and stepped away, but now she isn't so sure about retirement, so it's nice for both of us."
Customers will find the Wabasso Locker open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed on Saturday and Sunday.