Shopping Local at Nolechek's Meats
The past few years have brought about many conversations about what it means to shop local. Now more than ever, we are starting to see the importance of small businesses, not just in our community, but the United States as a whole. The definition of a small business is vague; and the Small Business Association defines small business based on three criteria:
- Revenue ($1 – 40 million per year)
- Employment (100-1500 employees)
- NAICS Industry Code
These are broad variables, but the fact remains that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54% of all employer businesses had less than 5 employees in 2018. Small business, regardless of size is the backbone of this country and foster economic growth, entrepreneurship, and show that the American spirit is based in determination and the willingness to take risks. Being aware of how we support small business goes beyond patronizing local establishments.
How does this tie into shopping local? Years ago, we slaughtered beef and pork and used the product in manufacturing, supplementing with raw materials purchased from the packing house. However, our business model changed due to labor markets, competition, product demand, and brand development. The farmers we were sourcing from retired, smaller processors sprung up in the area, we were unable to source enough product locally to meet customer demand for our product, and our brand expanded with the advent of online shopping in the mid-1990s. As hard as change is, it was our responsibility to make difficult decisions to adapt and pivot as these changes occurred over the past 30 years. Today, the raw materials we use at Nolechek’s to make our award-winning ham, bacon, and sausage products doesn’t come from local farmers, instead it comes from farmers all over the country.
For us, at Nolechek’s, the answer has become that shopping local is about relationships that are built with the businesses we patronize and receive supplies from. I appreciate doing business with people that take the extra time to chat or the ones that remember specifics. Even though businesses may not be able to source everything locally, somewhere, someone is making that product, slaughtering those animals, or transporting supplies. And those individuals are living in communities where they’re shopping locally and supporting their communities. So, we’re all part of a bigger (local) picture.
So, is Nolechek’s Meats technically local?
A friend pointed out that the items that we buy locally at places like Countryside Bulk, Hene’s, or SuperValu are potentially sourced from the same suppliers that provide product to large companies like Amazon, Target, or Walmart. So, are they local?
The question then becomes: Is it about shopping for or sourcing products that are made within a certain radius of one’s community that makes something local? Of course, the answer isn’t black or white and one can consider a myriad of factors based in opinion.
The relationships that are fostered while shopping local don’t have to just be built in-person anymore. At Nolechek’s we build relationships over the phone and through email or social media. And this doesn’t just apply to customers, but vendors, as well. Our team takes the time to provide the best customer service possible by taking the time to listen and respond with respect and kindness; showing a genuine interest in what people are asking. And if we don’t know the answer or there is a problem, our goal is to work towards finding a solution that will leave all parties satisfied.
So, perhaps shopping local isn’t about geography, but about being aware and appreciating the people who are doing the work and supporting our local communities; or appreciating good customer service and the relationships that can develop from knowing people on a personal level. One interesting question that came up was: How many people would you have to go through to talk to the owner of the businesses you frequent, whether you shop with said business in-person or online. Could you call Amazon and talk to Jeff Bezos or reach out to Mark Zuckerberg if you were having problems with your Facebook account? I don’t have an answer and honestly don’t have time to investigate, but I can say that from experience, it is very difficult to even have a conversation with a live customer service representative, let alone talk with someone in management. This would lead me to assume that getting ahold of Jeff or Mark would be near impossible. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for these platforms in our world, I order from Amazon myself. But I’ve become a lot more aware of my habits and make it a point to ask myself if it’s possible to purchase it locally or if I really need it at all.
What I can say with confidence that you would have to simply ask to talk to Kelly, Chad, or myself, at Nolechek’s, if we don’t answer the phone ourselves, and we would be happy to help you with whatever you need.
Coincidentally, as I was finishing this blog post, we were contacted by a 7th grade student, Ayden Kaczmarek. He created a Window Display Diorama as part of his Business Exploratory Class and asked if we would display it in our retail. I asked Ayden why he chose Nolechek’s and his response summed it up perfectly, "Meat! Particularly bacon. And because Nolechek’s is local." So, there you have it.
- Lindsey Fox (Nolechek)