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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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070214FrontSeymour.jpg

ERA ENDS—The ever popular business, Seymour’s Meat of Peshtigo closed their doors Saturday, June 28. The 86-year family operation was a mainstay in the area featuring some of the finest meats and smoked products. Pictured from left packaging some of the last orders are Tom, Jill, Mark and Esther Seymour. All the equipment will be sold and the building will be eventually torn down.

Popular Seymour Meats Ends 86 Years Of Family Business

A long-time Marinette County tradition ended Saturday, June 28 when Seymour’s Meats on Hwy. 64 closed its doors for the last time. Current owners Mark and Tom Seymour, grandsons of the founders, say it is time to retire. They have been involved in the business in one way or another since they were 11 and 13 years old.

The family meat processing business began in 1928 - 86 years ago - when the late Earl Seymour, Sr. and his wife, Rena, bought an 80-acre farm and began a dairying operation. The family business grew and expanded. It developed into a milk bottling and frozen food locker operation and finally a meat processing business focused on retail meats, sausage making, smoked meats and custom butchering.

It all started when Earl and Rena bought the farm, but it didn’t stop there. The business and the family grew.

The couple had five children - daughter, Grace, and sons Chuck, Robert, Irvin (Putter) and Earl Jr.

In 1930, with the help of his children, Earl Sr. started a wholesale and retail milk business. Robert, Putter and Chuck picked up milk from local farms with a Model A Ford truck and brought it back to their family facility for bottling and then delivered it to customers. Earl was not involved in the family business.

in 1938 the family added a frozen foods locker facility and meat business to compliment the dairy enterprise.

After World War II was declared in 1941 three of the Seymour boys went off to fight. Robert and Earl, Jr. joined the Army and Chuck enlisted in the Navy.

The war ended. In 1946 Irvin continued in the milk portion of the business and Robert ran the meat side. Chuck went to work at Badger Paper Mill and farmed. Grace continued to help their mom with the housework.

Irvin married his wife, Della, on March 26, 1949, and she helped Irvin run the dairy business after Irvin bought it from their father. At the time they served over 100 customers in the Marinette and Peshtigo area, picking up and delivering milk that had been bottled right there on the farm. They worked in the dairy business until 1969, when he retired. He continued to hobby farm until his retirement in the 1980’s

Robert had taken over the meat side of the business and purchased the farm from his father after returning home from service in 1946. He married his wife, Olive Kleinprintz, on Aug.17 of that year. He died on March 11, 2014. They had been married 68 years.

Olive taught school for seven years at the former Red School and helped Robert wrap meat in her spare time, while raising a family. She also kept the books for the growing business.

Earl, Sr. passed away on March 24, 1980. Olive, now 88, continued to do the books and wrap meat until Saturday, when the business closed. She said while they were in business together, “Robert was the boss in the shop and I was the boss at home.” She agrees it was time to close the business and retire, but isn’t quite sure what she’ll do with her new free time. She was always too busy to have hobbies.

They did custom butchering of cows, hogs and other animals for retail sale.

Eventually the couple had two sons, Mark and Thomas.

On Dec. 7, 1949, disaster struck. A fire that apparently started in the smoke house destroyed the meat cutting and locker facility and the family home. Largely because of the Seymour farm fire, the Harmony Volunteer Fire Department was started in 1950. It is now part of the Grover/Porterfield Fire Department. Sons Mark and Tom hadn’t been born yet, but both eventually became volunteer firefighters, and remained members of the department for many years.

Robert and Olive rebuilt, with a more modern butchering and locker facility. Sons Mark and Tom were born and started doing their part. Things went well. The business continued to grow, gradually trending toward more retail meats, smoking and sausage making, versus custom butchering.

Billy Christeck, a long time employee had retired just prior to Robert falling off the roof of the Harmony Church in 1965, while Robert was doing volunteer work there.

Mark was 13 at the time. Tom was 11. Both boys pitched in to help keep the business going, even leaving school at times to help out on the kill floor in the slaughter house. That continued through high school. There was time for the boys to have a little fun. They chuckle that they used to “accidentally” fill Billy Christek’s boots with water when they were hosing down the floors.

After school Tom and Mark would pick up animals from Niagara to Oconto and Stephenson, Mich. and points in between and bring them to the butchering/packing facility.

Mark graduated from Marinette High School in 1970, and Tom did likewise in 1972.

After high school Tom attended UW-Marinette and then NWTC in Marinette and Green Bay. He was hired as a deputy with Marinette County Sheriff’s Department in 1975, but stayed only a year. He left law enforcement and returned to work in the family business in 1976.

Mark went to technical school to be a mechanic and worked for Stan & Ed’s Auto in Marinette until 1975, but also continued to help out at the farm. He said he did all the killing from 1965 to 2013. In 1976, he too came back to work full time in the family business.

Mark married Sue Bulgrin on Sept. 23, 1972. She died of cancer on Jan. 17, 2007. On Aug. 14, 2010 Mark married Esther (Ruskiewicz) Boucher and she helped out at the family business the past several years.

Tom married Judy Rennes in 1976, but they were divorced in 1980 and on Oct. 1, 1983 he married Jill Jones. She worked outside the business but was always available in case the boys needed help.

One of their proudest achievements came in 1988, while their dad was still living. One of their turkeys won the Grand Champion poultry ribbon at the Wisconsin State Fair.

The work became easier as they acquired newer equipment and the business became more and more focused on the retail meats rather than custom butchering.

Tom eventually began doing a lot of the paper work as well as formulation and grinding of sausages, etc. Mark did the smoking, curing and stuffing. Their Mom, Olive, was always the official meat wrapper, with help sometimes from her daughters-in-law. Mark stated “we always took pride in producing a high quality consistent product with specialty recipes that Tom and I created over the years.”

There were numerous changes over the years. The state inspectors started visiting regularly in 1969, when they changed from being a registered facility to full inspection because of the retail meat business. Inspectors would come two days a week, when they butchered for the retail business. They were not needed for custom butchering. Over the years, some inspectors were good, some were questionable and some were hard to work with, the brothers agreed.

The brothers also agreed the time was coming for them to retire, and they started talking about it some four years ago. Some new regulations were coming, and to retain their licenses they would have to update their facility, which would involve some hefty expenses They decided they did not want to invest that kind of money at this stage in their lives. They did not want to have a mortgage their age. Also, Mark will be having knee surgery.

Mark has three sons and Tom has two. All of the boys have helped a lot in the family business over the years, but they all have good jobs and have no interest in taking over. So late in 2013 the brothers decided to close the business at the end of June.

They all agree it’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a good business. Often during deer season the crew would work around the clock to get their orders out. The brothers told of frequently starting work at 4 or 5 a.m., and not quitting until 6 or 7 p.m., except for their rule of locking the doors between noon and one p.m. daily to eat lunch and have a break.

They will sell some of their equipment, such as meat cutters, saws, grinders etc. The building will probably be torn down, and they will continue to rent the farm land to some other farm operation. Tom said he will continue to work around the place, and eventually may look for a job, working for someone else. Mark will enjoy retirement and help out where needed.

Tom, Mark and Olive all said they are proud that their business has been a part of the community for 86 years.

“We’ll miss all the interaction with customers, they have become friends over the years,” Mark declared.

“We’ll miss the people, but it’s been a good run,” Tom agreed.

Olive too said she has enjoyed her work over the years, and will miss the day to day contact with customers who became friends, but added she will be content to stay home now and relax. “It’s time,” she said. Her sons echoed the sentiment.


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