SUPERIOR — Behind the steel panels of a weathered building on Mullan Road East, you’ll find 25-year-old Superior Meats, a staple meat locker of Mineral County.
Inside, a team of meat cutters slice sirloins, customers stop by, picking up steaks and sausage for weekend grilling, and owner Jerry Stroot sets his apron to the side to squeeze a quick interview into his busy Friday.
“It's hard work, you know meat cutting isn't easy. Physically and mentally you gotta be tough and committed to doing it,” Stroot told MTN News.
Built from the ground up in 1996, Stroot has spent his life’s work in the meat industry. Even before he came to Montana, his parents purchased a meat packing plant in Kansas in the early 1960s.
“It's just in my blood, I guess,” said Stroot.
He’s been in the business for what seems like forever, but Stroot will be the first to tell you that even an expert can’t predict every ebb and flow of an industry.
From the closing of a lumber mill in Superior, Montana, to a global pandemic, forces out of his control dictate small town economies.
Now, as a new, 2,400 square foot retail building takes shape on his property, he hopes the disruptions slow down.
“It's kind of crazy to think that in ‘96 I built this and the mill shut down, now, in 2019, I build THIS and the whole world almost shuts down, and I'm thinking, I better not build again, ya know,” said Stroot.
As massive packing operations elsewhere in the country fell victim to COVID throughout the year, closing for weeks at a time, Superior Meats was able to power through and keep the lights on.
Stroot said he had community backing, name recognition, and a small enough team that he could respond to a bigger call for business when others couldn’t.
“The packers are basically, they're down to like half staff, so they can't produce, and for a while they were shut down, so they're not producing near the volume, and then the push with the farm-to-table has helped also. It's all just kind of come together here with COVID and we're turning away business all the time right now because we just can't keep up.”
The pandemic tested every business owner in the world, but Superior Meats didn’t falter. In fact, they kept over 20 people employed, bringing stability to a small community.
“We're throwing almost, I probably shouldn't even throw out a number, but this year it'll probably be close to half a million dollars in wages to Mineral County, which I feel real good about that,” said Stroot.
The new retail store for Superior Meats will be ready to open later this spring. Stroot said the new facility will have all of their signature jerky, BBQ sauce, sausage, and more.
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