American Faces No. 84
We’re in The Butchery, an independent meat market in Maple Lake with owner-entrepreneur Doug Lindenfelser. He’s calling out to customers by name as they come in, and breaking off our conversation every few minutes to run back behind the counter and help fill orders. It’s a warm, welcoming atmosphere, with beautiful meat displays and a nostalgic feel. Just the look of the place stirs thoughts of family, friends and backyard BBQs and makes me want to fire up my grill.
Doug looks the part too, with his checkered flannel shirt and butcher’s apron – he’s clearly a man in his element; enjoying the moment, breathing the bacon smoke, living the dream.
Who’d have guessed that just three years ago, by Doug’s own admission, he “knew zero about running a butcher shop, or cutting meat, or making sausage.”
“I was working as an art director and designer in a large corporate wholesale business, and I just hit a wall. I needed to make a change,” he says.
Doug’s an artist and a creator, and he enjoys serving people. He knew he wanted to build his own business, likely something involving retail, where could apply his creative skills in design and marketing and connect with customers.
“I didn't care what it was,” says Doug, “It could have been a t-shirt store or a hotdog stand, whatever. I just wanted to do my own thing.”
The quaint roadside meat market in Maple Lake came up for sale, and Doug took the leap. In 2020. It was a tough year to launch a new business. Doug rolled up his sleeves and dove in with a passion.
“First thing I did was re-brand the business. I changed the name, put out a sign that said ‘new ownership’ and redesigned the whole shop,” says Doug, “There was an opportunity to put my own stamp on it, totally create the retail experience and market the shop the way I wanted.”
Of course, there were a few things to learn about running a butcher shop as well. It’s a small operation, bringing in wholesale boxed meat from local suppliers, then cutting and preparing the retail products – smoked meats, sausage, bacon, steaks, roasts and about anything you’d want to throw on a grill. Doug was able to purchase the rights to the previous owner's award-winning sausage recipes, which gave him a good start. And he called in some expert advice from a 40-year butcher shop veteran. It turns out the meat business runs in the family.
“My Uncle Gordy runs Hackenmueller's Meat Market in Robbinsdale,” says Doug, “He talked me through a lot of questions as I was getting started. But at first he said, ‘Don’t do it’ – it’s too hard, it’s tough work, long hours, you won’t have time for anything else. He was right, it’s hard work.”
Doug says the community rallied to the new business, responding to his customer-centered efforts to provide a great retail experience, exceptional product quality and friendly service.
“We really hang our hat on service and taking care of people,” says Doug.
Along the way, Doug has secured relationships with local suppliers, allowing The Butchery to offer high-quality locally grown products, an appealing draw for discerning local customers.
Doug says all their pork is sourced from local producer, Glencoe Pork Company, and most all their beef is sourced wholesale from nearby Midwest suppliers. They also have a unique beef product only available locally.
“We recently partnered with Eden Valley Wagyu – the only source of certified 100% Japanese Wagyu beef in Minnesota – to be their exclusive retailer,” says Doug, “You can only purchase their product directly from their farm, or from us.”
Today, The Butchery of Maple Lake is hopping, with displays packed with fresh products, and customers coming in every 5 minutes. Doug now employs seven other people (four full-time), and keeps the shop running full-speed six days a week through the Summer.
“Starting Memorial Day it’s game-on, with Summer grilling season and all the cabin traffic,” says Doug, “I dropped down to five days a week for now, just so we can catch our breath.”
He may be trying to catch his breath, but Doug is clearly having fun.
“I always told myself that when I start my own business we’re going to have fun,” says Doug, “I really enjoy the people – my team, and my customers – building those relationships. And I know my customers appreciate that I appreciate them.”
Doug’s story is great encouragement for anyone wanting to pursue their passion. He’d probably tell you to take the leap and chase your dream. But if you’re wanting to launch a business he offers this simple advice: be ready to give it everything you’ve got.
“When you own your own business you have to put in the time and the work,” says Doug, “You get out of it what you put into it.”
Wherever you may be, do what you can to encourage and support your local entrepreneurs or small business owners. And if you're out Maple Lake way, stop in to The Butchery, grab some steaks or sausages for the grill and say hi to Doug. We’re pretty sure Doug’s welcoming smile, the great grilled meal, and the alluring scent of bacon smoke will bring you back. Grill on!
Photos by: Nielsen Studios
Writing/editing by: Scott Whitman