Wenneman Meat Company, which was devastated by a fire in January, is making a comeback. They announced yesterday that they'll build a $5 million, 22,000-square-foot complex in St. Libory, Illinois, where the business has operated for 84 years. For the first time in the town's history, St. Libory offered to create a tax increment financing district to keep the business in town.
In the meantime, Wenneman Meat has kept operating on a smaller scale from a trailer. Co-owner Brad Schmitz said, "We are really not able to do much at this point. We are doing a little deer processing, selling a few sides of beef and processed hogs. Without a facility to operate out of we are unable to supply any businesses - restaurants, stores, et cetera."
Local restaurants are making do. Amy Zupanci, owner of Fond and Township Grocer said, "We [at] Fond actually deal direct with the farmer, Chad Rensing. We haven't really had to substitute anything. What changed for us is where Chad would get his meat processed. It has affected him significantly. Now he has to bounce between Grant Fork and Trenton to get his meat processed.
"They had a relationship with the Amish in Arthur, Illinois, where the poultry processor is. This allowed us to get fresh, non-commercial poultry from time to time. Since the fire, no poultry for us."
The inconvenience isn't enough to drive Zupanci away. "Wenneman makes awesome bacon. So, we are excited for that to come back, even if it takes a year. It's delicious!"
Executive Chef Josh Galliano at Monarch has similar feelings. "We had to adjust two things. We've had to go back to making our own andouille, and we're getting our pigs butchered at Behrmann's in Albers, Illinois. It helped that we had a lot of things stockpiled.
"Wenneman's was always good about delivering. Brad is great for getting special items for me, like if I needed ham hocks."
Galliano is also optimistic about Wenneman's rebirth. "They're smart business guys. They'll do what it takes to remain a powerhouse in southern Illinois."
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