Small town, big flavor

by Steve Krut
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Mark Reynolds (left) and Allen Carter (right) show off Country Meat Shop's 2017 Best of Show award in the American Cured Meat Championship.
 
When his family’s meat shop was destroyed by a fire in 1989, Mark Reynolds found work with a large meat processing company and was quickly promoted to shift supervisor. But after six years in that position, he realized he became restless by just making product, which was stifling his creativity.

While the fourth-generation meat processor could not replicate the shop his great-grandfather Joe Haines had established in 1934 in Moberly, Missouri, he found a small struggling meat shop that was available and invested his limited capital and time to become an entrepreneur and risk-taker in the same community. Known as Country Meat Shop, the business reemerged as something special. While remaining primarily a retail store, Reynolds and his brother Dan felt there was enough potential to revive some of the original family product line and develop some new items.

“At first it was largely doing custom deer processing just to help pay the bills,” he recalls. “Yet we wanted to bring our family brand ‘Little Dixie’ and its reputation back. It’s now called ‘Dixie Smokehouse’ and our line-up has greatly expanded.”

The eldest Reynolds daughter, Brooke, has worked at the shop since its opening. She has worked throughout high school and continued employment there while in college at nearby Univ. of Missouri. Her recently earned degree in graphic design has been an asset to the business. The youngest daughter, Quincy, recently joined the team on a regular basis and is already making an impression on regular customers. Lara, Reynold’s wife of 30 years, worked for large corporations outside the business, which provided a stable income to help with unavoidable start-up costs.

Awards and accolades

Reynolds decided to make the shop a full-time retail business in 2011 and came out of the chute with a roar. Their new and original family products became a Midwest sensation. Indeed, they earned 82 awards for product quality and innovation in just the first seven years.

Competing at the Missouri State Fair, the Hermann Wurst Festival or the Missouri Association of Meat Processors cured meats shows is like going directly to the professional ranks right out of high school. Then the “little shop that could” brought their wares to the national and international level. Two years ago, they earned gold medals for their hams and bacon along with a silver medal for their hot dogs at the IFFA (world butcher competition in Frankfurt, Germany), and last year swept the prestigious Clarence Knebel Best of Show Award at the American Cured Meats Championships for their round bacon.

Reynolds says he’s relied heavily on original family recipes that he’s been refining for years. He also relies on his brother Dan and his main meat cutter and sausage-maker, Allen Carter, who’s been with him for the past 15 years. He says Dan has a fantastic neutral taste cognizance and can let him know when product is too hot, overly spiced or needs a change in formulation.

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