Change for good
In those days, about 95 percent of the sausage sold by Southside to retailers was fresh and distributed in 50-lb. bulk boxes. As the market changed, “I felt like we needed to evolve as well so I started taking our same sausage recipe and smoking it and making links for case-ready packaging,” Bracewell says.
In the late 1980s, Bracewell’s grandfather had purchased what was formerly a bank building near a busy highway in Elgin. In 1992, the company’s former slaughter plant “out in the country,” was where it made its sausage and was the same building the company was founded in 110 years before. The company moved to the transformed building as well as moving its downtown restaurant to the location adjacent to US Highway 290. The move was scrutinized at the time by many people, but the additional exposure has benefitted the company with as many as 30,000 cars per day passing by the eatery. The business went on to grow exponentially in the new location with the restaurant, market and its federally inspected processing facility operating on the same piece of property. With the new setup, sales and distribution became a point of emphasis, with Bracewell’s wife becoming the company’s first sales representative, successfully calling on high-profile retailers, including HEB and Walmart. “That’s when we started getting our case-ready smoked sausages on the shelves, in the early 2000s,” Bracewell says. A second restaurant was built, from the ground up, in 2014 in nearby Bastrop, Texas.
The Southside processing plant spans about 15,000 sq. ft. and employs upwards of about 30 workers working a single shift. The plant processes up to 2 million lbs. of sausage per year, much of which is sold at the Southside restaurants. The plant serves as the receiving location for all of the whole-muscle products served at the company’s two restaurants, where it is trimmed and seasoned before being shipped to the restaurants, where cooking is done on site.
It isn’t uncommon for the restaurant in Elgin to sell 1,400 lbs. on any given Saturday, according to Bracewell, who bought the business from his grandparents in 2010. While units sold have increased through the years, poundage doesn’t necessarily increase, but the top-selling item has always been the company’s Original Beef Sausage, also known as “hot guts,” flavor. The No. 2 seller is the 1882 Beef Sausage, which reinfused the original hot and spicy ingredients from the early days of the company that was toned down until 2007. All of the company’s sausage are stuffed in natural pork casings. Southside also offers two flavors of summer sausage and smoked beef jerky, all of which is also available on its website. A new offering known as a Sausage Slammer is one-half of a jalapeño pepper that is stuffed with cheese and wrapped in pork sausage as well as bacon.
“For as long as I can remember, we made more sausage than we could slaughter,” Bracewell says. “I grew up going to the feedlot with my grandpa on Monday afternoons and picking up cattle and calves that we would slaughter on Tuesday morning and that would be the meat for our butcher shop for that week. But predominantly the sausage came from boxed meat,” he says.
When the operations moved to the former bank building location, Southside transitioned to all boxed beef from feedlot cattle to supply the butcher shop. At that point the company cut back to only doing custom slaughtering for local customers. “In August of 2002, I shut down the slaughter plant,” he says, which was a tough decision for all three generations of operators. Bracewell’s logic was: “We’ve got to concentrate on what we do really well and that’s making sausage and barbecue and I’d rather concentrate my efforts on making sausage and barbecue.”
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