Penn
The Salsbury family moved to Florida for a change of scenery 40 years ago, and never left.
 
Many Northerners move to the warmer climate of Florida over the winter and return home in the spring and summer months. They are bestowed with the title of “Snow Birds.” This is a story about a Northern family in the meat business that went to Florida and stayed. They could be called the “Meat Birds,” but they don’t have any plans of moving back north.

A little over 40 years ago, Edwin Salsburg closed his 100-head-per-week packing plant in Shillington, Pennsylvania, and moved to Florida. He and his wife Sophy wanted to remain in the meat and food business and took over a former tomato sauce plant just off Interstate 95 in Hollywood. Their plan was to buy from local producers and sell a large variety of fresh products at affordable prices.

Their son Paul had just returned from military service in Vietnam. Because he and his brother Bill had worked around the original family meat business since they were kids, they came in to help rekindle the family business, now called Penn Dutch Retail Food Center, in the Sunshine State.

Bill took on the fresh meats end of things. Paul tackled the sausage and processed meats arena. A younger brother Rick, an electrical engineer, came on board to get the cooling, refrigeration and freezing equipment into top shape and keep it that way.

“This is an area that experiences hurricanes on a regular basis,” Paul says, “so having generators and alternative power systems has proven critical over the years. We’ve never lost a cooler of meats.”

That’s quite a statement that held true even recently after Hurricane Irma struck their area in late August.

“We were able to heed the advanced warning and empty all the meat cases and products that needed to be kept cold,” he adds. “Customers don’t stock up on perishables when a storm is imminent. We were closed for a few days and when our customers started to regain electrical power, we restocked the cases and began experiencing a very busy week of sales.”

Penn
Greg, Micah, Sophy and Jacob Salsburg are third-generation members of the family working in the business.
 

Luring customers

Their flagship Hollywood store is in an industrial park area but is readily identified by its striking yellow colored paint, which is visible from the nearby highway. Shoppers seek it out, but when customers tell the Salsburgs it’s hard to find, they are told that “you only have difficulty finding it the first time.”

Getting customers to come back is accomplished by offering what is likely the greatest variety of meats in the entire state – and at affordable prices. And the quality is assured by the Salsburg’s devotion to doing most of their processing in house. Clearly about two-thirds of the 40,000-sq.-ft. Hollywood facility is used for production and storage and the remainder is retail area.

Yet it is in that retail area that Penn Dutch features its 21-day wet-aged beef as well as pork, lamb, goat and other meat species, not only in the expected cuts, but also in sweetbreads, ox tails, neck bones for sauces, as well as the thin sliced steak for the Philly cheese steak sandwiches. They also have a large variety of cold cuts, marinated turkey and chicken deli items, veal hot dogs, home-style corned beef and European-, Caribbean- and Cajun-flavored delicacies.

Seafood, hard-to-find fruits and vegetables abound in the store, but it is clearly the meats that keep those customers coming back.

Paul and Bill admit they are “old-school,” but they use kiosk displays featuring such enticements as sampling to promote specialized categories such as budget-friendly, gluten-free, vegetarian, soups and chilies, 300-calories-or-less, barbecue, holiday, back-to-school, kids, serves two, family favorites, heart healthy, diabetes management, prepared in-minutes and tailgating.

Their website penn-dutch.com not only shows off their offerings but provides a glimpse at their prowess in marketing. They encourage the many yachters in the area to provision their vessels at the store (no, they do not deliver) and serve as the hot spot for some resorts and those planning gatherings to come in and load up.

Penn
Bill and Paul Salsburg still come to work on a daily basis, but they're ready to hand over the reins to the next generation.
 


Continued growth

When the store opened, there were only 10 employees. They opened a second store in Margate, about 20 miles away, and in February they will open a third store in Sunrise, midway between the other two stores. All of their sales are retail only.

Using the same formula of fresh, quality products at affordable prices and in great variety, Penn Dutch makes heavy use of colorful flyers touting their specials. About 75,000 of these promo pieces hit the mail each week.

“We like to think that we offer shoppers wholesale club prices without a membership fee,” Paul asserts. “Then we remind them that since we process and cut most of our meats in-house, there is much less need for extra shipping and we can work with less salts and preservatives.

“Our customers know what we make and how we make it right at the stores,” he continues. “Our sampling and tasting program is solid and we even have a hot dog cart just inside the entrance to serve our Belly Buster ¼-lb. hot dogs and we sell thousands of them every week.

“Hot dogs are really a huge seller for us, but our smoked hams, everything from fully cooked bone-in to spiral-cut varieties, are one of our most important items. We sell them by the thousands on a regular basis.”

Both Paul and Bill regard their titles as “advice givers.” They both come in on a daily basis, but make it clear they are passing on the business management to the younger generation of Salsburgs.

Bill’s son Greg, 50, once planned to go to law school. He admits that when he realized what his family had built in Florida, he wanted to be part of it and today could be identified as the operations manager for the company. In addition to Greg, three other younger family members, Jacob, Sophy and Micah, are excited about carrying on the business.

The new store in Sunrise is a 13,000-sq.-ft. converted Walgreen’s facility that they lease. The Salsburgs have also made ongoing changes to their other store locations, including the Hollywood store which they have changed from “small and cluttered to clean and bright.”

As the old saying goes: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” The proof of the success for Penn Dutch and the Salsburg family is that they established what they wanted their business to be and worked diligently to get it to that level and sustain it with their original formula of quality, variety and price. It’s kind of what you would call a country butcher shop on steroids.