Founded in 1939, Hewitts has evolved

Founded in 1939, Hewitts has evolved

Focus on Retail Sales, Sausage Making Has Paid Off

Upon entering the doors at Hewitt’s Meat Processing Inc., a look straight ahead reveals five letters hung on the wall that says it all: Fresh.

Hewitt’s Meats has hung its hat on providing fresh, high quality, award-winning meats since 1939. How the business has done that has evolved through the decades as four generations of the Hewitt family have guided the business.

Today, family descendant Amanda Franseen and her husband, John, are at the helm, having taken over the reins about four years ago. 2018 proved to be a pivotal one, as the Franseens opened the new Hewitt’s Meats facility (both a retail store and state-of-the-art meat processing facility) at 210 Downwind Drive on the south side of Marshfield. The new, 6,000-foot, USDA meat processing facility was intended to further grow Hewitt’s Meats, with a focus on sausage production, cutting of steaks, roasts, etc., and a step away from harvesting animals, John said.

“Our old location had a retail space, but it was a pretty rural location,” he said. “The new location is more in tune with how people live their lives and offers more convenience.”

Around that time, Hewitt’s Meats also opened a retail store in Tomahawk that offers access to Hewitt’s award-winning products to the Northwoods. But even with big changes like these — a significant move of the main business and a new satellite location — what didn’t change was the Franseens’ focus on well-established seasoning recipes as well as well cut, quality meats.

“We produce what we do by honoring tradition and learning new, emerging technologies and techniques,” John said. He credits the master meat crafter short course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with helping him understand the science behind the processes as well as a mindset of continuous improvement that’s allowed the Franseens to build upon the strong foundation that began in 1939 when Marvin and Crystal Hewitt founded the business.

Their son, Jim, and his wife, Evelyn, became the second generation of owners after World War II, owning and operating the business until their daughter Barb and her husband, Tom, purchased the business in 2012.

Today, John and Amanda proudly wear the hats as the fourth generation carrying on the Hewitt tradition.

Upon walking into the store, customers face two full-service retail cases. One is focused on steaks, hamburgers, chicken and different cuts of pork. The other features deli salads and a variety of bratwurst (Hewitt’s makes about 40 flavors of bratwurst). The built-in cooler section offers ready-to-go sandwiches as well as bacon, hot dogs, ham, summer sausage and snack sticks. In the freezer section, you’ll find all varieties of brats, frozen breakfast sausage, different flavor beef patties, pork sausage patties, bulk hamburger, roasts, steaks, fish shrimp and seafood.  The store rounds things out with bakery goods from a local company and frozen pizzas from two local pizza companies.

The Franseens took a chance on offering lunch specials from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, be it burgers, hot subs, soups, brat of the day or other options. “It’s been well received by employees of businesses on the south end of Marshfield who don’t have many lunch options,” John said.

What people take to the register to stock their refrigerators and freezers varies depending on the time of year. During grilling season, “brats are king,” he said. “We usually make six to 15 different flavors every week during grilling season, and sell lots of steaks and patties.”

Outside of the traditional grilling season, Hewitt’s Meats makes a lot of summer sausage, snack sticks and bacon.

The Franseens made an intentional decision to step away from the animal processing for customers that used to be a mainstay of the business when they took on the business.  “Our vision was more focused on retail and sausage production,” he said.

Shifting gears was a risk as historically, retail sales of meats in the cases made up just 10 to 15 percent of the business. Today, they comprise anywhere from 85 percent to 90 percent, and the duo has seen total sales grow 300 percent since they moved the store.

“We’re probably up 10 percent from what we even anticipated,” he said. “It’s been from retaildriven sales, online retail sales and a mindset that we’re looking to grow.”

They also do a little business in the wholesale market, working primarily with local cheese companies to sell in their stores as well as selling a bit to gas stations, convenience stores and grocery stores. Growing the private-label segment is another opportunity area, offering Hewitt’s Meats the ability to step in for other meat processing companies that have shortfalls in their ability to keep up with demand.

“Through this, we’ve been able to sharpen our focus,” he said, “but we’ve been able to produce even more efficiently and at a more consistent quality level since we moved to our new location.”

The Marshfield location’s visibility has contributed to that as well. Hewitt’s Meats continues to employ 16 full-time and part-time employees, but John Franseen believes they’ve been able to better focus on production in the new location’s setup.

Looking ahead, the Franseens are excited about the additional opportunities for growth in the private label sector. John Franseen said that, like a lot of industries, there are business owners in the private label sector looking to retire, offering an opportunity for businesses like theirs to get involved in absorbing some of the “smaller scale” work.

“Somebody either has to purchase that business or take it over,” he said. “What we’re seeking is a lot of meat processors being purchased by private equity groups that aren’t looking to keep the small to medium quantity [production] that we do. We want to focus on that. We can give customers like that a lot of attention and quality service. That’s a niche for us”