Bright and clean with a unique selection of foods, Dakota Butcher is opening this week, not with a grand opening and fanfare but slowly.
"We want to get some traffic in and work with our employees," said owner Randy Gruenwald.
As he and his wife Karen open the fourth in their regional chain, their goal is to hire and train staff to give customers the kind of experience which reflects their mission and values.
"Our mission is to give the best quality of product that we are capable of with excellent customer service at a fair price," Gruenwald said.
The couple was not entirely unfamiliar with the food industry when they purchased the meat locker in Clark in 2019. Gruenwald had worked in the meat department at Kessler's in Aberdeen while studying business management at Northern State University; then he worked for Nash Finch for 15 years, moving around quite a bit.
However, he was working as an ag lender for Dacotah Bank when Karen, who was working for the locker in Clark while studying nursing, suggested they buy the business in 2009. She gave up nursing to run it, and Randy worked at both the bank and the locker for six years.
In 2014, they opened their first Watertown location. That was followed in 2017 with a second location that includes a steakhouse where customers not only indicate how they want their steak prepared but also choose the cut.
When the Gruenwalds began to consider opening another location, Tammy Miller, CEO of Madison Regional Health System, suggested they consider Madison.
"She invited us down to look at the Madison area," Gruenwald said. They are from the same hometown, he explained.
Dakota Butcher is located along S. Washington Ave. and shares a newly-constructed building with Scooter's Coffeehouse. Both the entrance and parking are to the west of the building. The main entrance is located beneath the head of a longhorn steer.
While Dakota Butcher does have a full-service meat counter, that is only a small part of what the business will offer. Customers will be able to grab a quick lunch or pick up a take-home meal after work. In addition, the store offers a wide selection of alcoholic beverages and South Dakota products, such as Dimock cheese.
"We try to get as much from South Dakota as we can," Gruenwald said.
Among the prepared foods available will be ribs, chicken, pulled pork and beef tips. Fresh meat will include beef, pork and chicken. Some seafood will also be available as well as brats, bacon and beef sticks that are made at their other locations.
Shoppers can expect some surprises when it comes to signature Dakota Butcher products. For example, bacon selections include jalapeno bacon, which has a bit of a bite to finish a burger or breakfast burrito.
The same is true of their pizzas. In addition to traditional offerings, Dakota Butcher will offer a line of gourmet pizzas such as barbecue brisket, sauerkraut and brats, and jalapeno poppers.
"We started pizzas when we opened the Watertown store," Gruenwald said.
They proved to be popular, both because they are loaded with lots of ingredients and because they are baked quickly in a convection blast oven. Dakota Butcher can bake a pizza in 4 1/2 minutes.
Eric Fosheim, executive director for the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, said he is looking forward to getting some of Dakota Butcher's products.
"They pride themselves on carrying some different items that you can't get in town," he said.
As an economic development director, he sees these new options as beneficial for the whole retail community. Shoppers are more likely to spend money in town if they can find what they need or want.
LAIC provided financing for this new business from the revolving loan fund, Fosheim said.
"We're excited about it," he said. "I think it will offer Madison folks a shopping experience they can't get in other places."
Dakota Butcher will be offering frozen meals which just have to be warmed up. Beef stroganoff and hamburger hotdish are among the offerings currently available.
In Watertown, Dakota Butcher does a lot of catering, according to Karen Gruenwald. As their business becomes more established in the Madison area, they plan to offer that service here as well.
Until the new business is fully staffed and staff is fully trained, Dakota Butcher will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Both hours and services will expand in coming weeks and months.