The meat cases at Stoltzfus Meats in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, are brim-full with a stunning display of Amish country and award-winning products. It’s not shown on the labels, but every package includes an undisclosed ingredient called business philosophy.
“You have to imagine that our meats are privileged guests at our customer’s dinner table,” explains second-generation company president and core-values monitor Myron Stoltzfus. “We are not just there as the cranberry sauce or a side dish. We are the centerpiece on the table. That means we can never disappoint anyone at that table.”
Myron learned well from his late father Amos, who used the 60-acre family farm as a base to deliver famed Lancaster County foods to a farmers market in New Castle, Delaware, about one hour away. The Stoltzfus stand in New Castle, Philadelphia and Reading farmers markets became so popular that Amos constructed a small slaughter and processing facility to make his own products. This family enterprise that began in 1954 has experienced many changes in the ensuing 62 years. But the philosophy of offering only the finest quality products made with care and dedication proved to be fertile ground for growing a business that others could only hope to emulate.
“The Stoltzfus Way” is not only a statement of the reverence the family-business has toward its mission, but it is a beacon the company management has followed with every expansion and new division it has undertaken.
Over the years, Stoltzfus Meats has expanded the original plant facility (which is now an office area) to a 10,000-sq.-ft. operation that employs 130 workers. Beef and hog slaughter is now a thing of the past, a change that has allowed the company to focus on higher quality products with reliance on locally raised meats, a core-value the family holds sacred.
Myron, now 57, came to work for his father at the age of 18. After Amos died in 2007, his commitment to those traditional values was reaffirmed. Yet any thought of coasting along or just holding the fort was quickly dismissed.
“We sold our stands at the Philadelphia, Reading and Ardmore farmers markets and focused on bringing more Lancaster County products and vendors to New Castle,” Myron explains. “It became more of a destination and attraction for tourists visiting the many Delaware beach areas.
“A few years later, we were operating a retail store in Intercourse, but saw more opportunity to not only sell our meat and deli items, but also to offer sit-down and takeout meals.”
The result is a thriving and bustling Stoltzfus combination meat shop, deli and restaurant called Amos’ Place Restaurant located in a small shopping mall just down the road from the plant. Calling this location a restaurant would be like calling Disney World a place to take kids out to the park.
During the heavy tourist season, buses unload passengers for quick, tasty and hearty meals, featuring wraps, homemade soups and salads. The restaurant has seating both inside and out, but customers flock in for the baked goods from the in-store bakery. Name a Pennsylvania Dutch or Amish food, and you can most likely find it at this mini-mall location. Envision a convenience store that serves top quality meals, counters that feature everything from jams, marinades and sauces to a dazzling array of gourmet smoked cheeses, fresh and frozen meats. Samples of the snack sticks and Lancaster County foods abound, as well as gift candles or any spices or flavorings that go into popular dishes in the heavily populated Amish countryside. When tourists and locals are both flocking in the door, you know you have hit on a retail success.
Myron honed his processed meat skills well, and the Stoltzfus name on sweet bologna, hams, bacons, sausages and smoked turkeys conjures up a pedigree that includes state and national grand championship awards.
He has delegated authority well and has competent management at every station from the bakery, to the plant, to the New Castle market.
“I don’t like to say that I have ‘arrived’, but feel that I’m becoming more of a person who oversees well-training and understanding managers at the key levels,” he reflects. “I guess you could say that my job is that of continuing to build a culture of doing things the right way. I want to see this business with our family name carried on and the legacy continued. There are so many people depending on us to do things the right way. Disappointing just one is failure. That means that decisions come from information and feedback from all involved in our company.”
Myron has proved his mettle in areas beyond the family business. For several years he represented the small meat processor segment as a member of the US Dept. of Agriculture’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection. He was outspoken and clear on issues affecting smaller plant management based fully on his ability to listen to his peers throughout the country. His role in explaining the true implications of proposed rules and inspection to others on the committee who knew little about family-owned small meat processing businesses was profound.
Stoltzfus Meats has invested heavily in new equipment and is working on a 5,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the processing plant in the current year. The business has changed to become 60 percent reliant on wholesale volume and the expansion is premised on more space for packaging ready-to-eat items and smokehouse capacity. The firm also does private labeling of meats for 10 business partners and has accounts with nearly 900 other food outlets.
Although much of the original family farm has been sold off for housing development, Myron says that in 2014, some of the original barn structures have been remodeled into venues for weddings and special catered events. While outside caterers and managers currently handle those activities, he is quick to report that half the available dates for weddings and similar events have already been booked through 2017.
Another division that has taken off is the gift box and corporate gift department. A glance at the firm’s website, www.stoltzfusmeats.com, identifies the variety of gift assortments that it offers. And while Stoltzfus Meats ships orders nationwide, it does a robust trade in gift boxes for local companies that order in the 50 to 100 unit range.
“A business has to be continuously planned and rethought if it is to be sustained,” Myron concludes. “There are always new ideas and concepts that come up at our meetings. One thing we learned and abide by is the belief that if you are going to do something new or different, you had better be very serious about it. We call it ‘The Stoltzfus Way’ and tolerate no excuse for not getting it understood and followed.”