Thursday, December 17, 2015

Galesburg Meat Company changes to meet customers' needs

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
December 17, 2015

Jena, left, and Arlene Christian at GMC

When Jena Christian was a little girl, she remembers her father coming home from work in his long white butcher's apron, splattered with red. 

"It's Kool-Aid, honey," her father would say. 

Sitting in the back office at Galesburg Meat Company, Jena, now a grown woman, laughs heartily. Across from her, sitting at the desk, is Arlene Christian, her grandmother. Three generations of Christians have owned and managed GMC since Rich Christian, Arlene's husband, bought the business in 1977. When Rich passed, he left the business in his son Mark's capable hands -- and "Kool-Aid" splattered apron. 

"Rich was the meat manager at the Family Foods grocery store in Kalamazoo back then," Arlene says. "Someone told him about Galesburg Frozen Food Locker going up for sale, and he bought it. He was the sole proprietor then, but we incorporated about 30 years ago."

When Rich Christian took over the business at 58 Mill Street in the center of Galesburg, he changed the name to Galesburg Locker & Meat Company. At that time, Arlene explains, few people had the refrigerator space to hold a side of beef, which was what the business sold. Once the side of beef was purchased -- sometimes even financed through a bank -- it was stored in a locker. As times changed and more customers bought larger freezers of their own, the "locker" part of the business was dropped, and the name was shortened to Galesburg Meat Company.

Today's GMC sells much more than sides of beef. To beef add pork, poultry, seafood, smoked meats, along with seasonings, cheeses, sausages, and homemade jerky. Meats are sold in quantities of one-meal up to, yes, sides of beef. 

"We used to also process venison, but we stopped doing that about three years ago," Jena says. "Regulations for handling deer are complex and now require a separate building. We didn't have the space. But if someone brings in a boneless piece of venison, we will still process that." She points to a long row of venison salami swinging from a rack, ready to slice. 

What differentiates GMC from your corner supermarket, the Christians will tell you, is that to this day they are still an old-fashioned butcher shop. Meat arrives at the supermarket already packaged, but buying meat from the butcher means the customer knows exactly how fresh that cut is -- and where it is from.

"All our beef and pork is local, all from farms within five miles down the road," Jena says. "We process meat from farmers, from slaughter to packaging, or we do custom processing when someone buys from a farmer and wants it processed a certain way."

Another family tradition, passed from generation to generation, is how  ...


Pork belly


Jena demonstrates tumbler

Smoke house

Venison salami

Mark Christian

Making sausage

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