Whole Lot of Bacon Going On: Maplewood Meats

By | December 01, 2016
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Brad Van Hemelryk of the business’s founding Van Hemelryk family
Plant manager Brad Van Hemelryk of the business’s founding Van Hemelryk family

Green Bay’s Maplewood Meats isn’t difficult to find. Drive west out of town on Highway 29 and you can’t miss the huge neon sign flashing near the road.

“SAUSAGE. BRATS. TERIYAKI,” the sign beckons. Slow down to locate the turn-off and you begin to salivate at the smoke-happy smell of ham and bacon wafting through your vehicle. And then there’s the expansive parking lot, filled to capacity after church on Sundays and during deer hunting season … and much of the rest of the time, too.

This is the place, all right.

The building is massive and nondescript, but inside Maplewood Meats it’s Cloud Nine for meat lovers. Gleaming, chin-high meat cases form a lengthy train across the room. Several walls and large swaths of the floor space are filled with self-service reach-in freezers and coolers, all sporting a mind-boggling, mouth-watering array of fresh and smoked goodies. Grab a basket, take a number and join the hum of customers making their happy choices. Can’t decide? No problem. There’s a team of unfailingly kind professionals ready to give you a suggestion, a cooking tip, a taste. Fair warning: you will spend more than you had budgeted.

I recently caught up with plant manager Brad Van Hemelryk, one of eight Van Hemelryk family members who drive this destination meat market and packing plant. (Naturally, after Brad and I were finished, I grabbed a basket … and happily overspent my own budget.)

Maplewood Meats Sign

Terese: What’s the history behind Maplewood Meats?

Brad: Maplewood Packing Inc., better known as Maplewood Meats, opened in 1983 to provide a custom fabrication service to the greater Green Bay area. It was established by Roger, Pat, Vicki and Dave Van Hemelryk and Lisa Schulze, with additional family members joining in since. They saw the need for a high-quality butcher shop and a place where local producers could have beef, pork and lamb fabricated to their specifications.

Ours is a craft that becomes finely tuned with more experience and acquired knowledge; which is exactly how the Van Hemelryk family approached growing Maplewood Meats. Every member of the company worked throughout the different departments to gain a better understanding of the operation and to achieve the goal they set from the beginning: to provide the highest quality products and service throughout the Green Bay area. Through this mission Maplewood Meats grew from a six-foot service case to over 85 feet of retail meat cases, and to providing quality products to consumers throughout the United States.

Terese: Wisconsin is home to an unusual number of family-owned meat markets. What makes Maplewood products different or distinctive from others?

Brad: We craft products using old world techniques and acute attention to detail. All of our housemade sausages and cured meats are made right here at our facility in Green Bay. This results in products that have a well-balanced flavor and desirable texture. It all starts with the raw materials, [so] we use the highest quality we can find. We blend our own seasonings and use a natural smoking process that utilizes applewood from Door County.

Terese: What else has contributed to Maplewood’s success over the years?

Brad: The biggest take away about how our company operates is that it is not one person or individual that creates our growth or success. It is a team effort and Maplewood is blessed to have employees that do not treat this facility like a job. They treat the company like it is their own and bring a dedication and passion every day to make this company better.

Terese: How has the company changed or developed most since it was founded in 1983?

Brad: The most unique thing that has occurred along the way would be the building of our relationship with our customers. Some could say this [has been] simply business transactions, but we find it to be much more. Anyone who has visited has experienced the atmosphere inside our retail facility, an environment where each employee–customer interaction is [seen as] an opportunity to build a new and stronger relationship. We consistently witness our customers’ passion and excitement for our goods. We see customers discussing products and making suggestions to each other. One could say that in this relation

Terese: Wisconsin is home to an unusual number of family-owned meat markets. What makes Maplewood products different or distinctive from others?

Brad: We craft products using old world techniques and acute attention to detail. All of our housemade sausages and cured meats are made right here at our facility in Green Bay. This results in products that have a well-balanced flavor and desirable texture. It all starts with the raw materials, [so] we use the highest quality we can find. We blend our own seasonings and use a natural smoking process that utilizes applewood from Door County.

Terese: What else has contributed to Maplewood’s success over the years?

Brad: The biggest take away about how our company operates is that it is not one person or individual that creates our growth or success. It is a team effort and Maplewood is blessed to have employees that do not treat this facility like a job. They treat the company like it is their own and bring a dedication and passion every day to make this company better.

Terese: How has the company changed or developed most since it was founded in 1983?

Brad: The most unique thing that has occurred along the way would be the building of our relationship with our customers. Some could say this [has been] simply business transactions, but we find it to be much more. Anyone who has visited has experienced the atmosphere inside our retail facility, an environment where each employee–customer interaction is [seen as] an opportunity to build a new and stronger relationship. We consistently witness our customers’ passion and excitement for our goods. We see customers discussing products and making suggestions to each other. One could say that in this relation

Terese: Wisconsin is home to an unusual number of family-owned meat markets. What makes Maplewood products different or distinctive from others?

Brad: We craft products using old world techniques and acute attention to detail. All of our housemade sausages and cured meats are made right here at our facility in Green Bay. This results in products that have a well-balanced flavor and desirable texture. It all starts with the raw materials, [so] we use the highest quality we can find. We blend our own seasonings and use a natural smoking process that utilizes applewood from Door County.

Terese: What else has contributed to Maplewood’s success over the years?

Brad: The biggest take away about how our company operates is that it is not one person or individual that creates our growth or success. It is a team effort and Maplewood is blessed to have employees that do not treat this facility like a job. They treat the company like it is their own and bring a dedication and passion every day to make this company better.

Terese: How has the company changed or developed most since it was founded in 1983?

Brad: The most unique thing that has occurred along the way would be the building of our relationship with our customers. Some could say this [has been] simply business transactions, but we find it to be much more. Anyone who has visited has experienced the atmosphere inside our retail facility, an environment where each employee–customer interaction is [seen as] an opportunity to build a new and stronger relationship. We consistently witness our customers’ passion and excitement for our goods. We see customers discussing products and making suggestions to each other. One could say that in this relationship it doesn’t matter whether you’re dressed as employee or customer— we’re all here to provide the highest quality products for all to enjoy.

Terese: I imagine the deer processing season is extremely busy— what’s that like for you?

Brad: Wild game processing is one of our favorite aspects of our company. What’s so great about this service is that it is so diverse, from the type of wild game to the products the customer is looking to have processed. Our customers provide us with outstanding raw proteins that are fresh and cleanly prepared. It’s our responsibility to take this raw protein that was harvested with care and turn it into product that represents the effort devoted into harvesting it. We enjoy our interaction with our customers of the hunting community because it allows us to share our passion for wild game with them.

Terese: How have your products changed over the years? What used to be popular versus what sells the most now?

Brad: For the most part our recipes have stood the test of time and it’s [good] to know we are remaining consistent in creating well-balanced products. We have seen a greater call for more diversified flavor profiles over the years and also utilization of a variety of proteins. From this we have created products like Buffalo Chicken Snack Stick with Bleu Cheese and Smoked Turkey Bacon, both of which are made entirely from poultry. For about the past year we’ve seen a rise in demand for high-quality pork—pork that is well-marbled and retains moisture throughout the cooking process.

Terese: If you could give one piece of advice to meat cooks, what would it be?

Brad: When it comes to preparing roasts or even steaks it’s important not to forget how vital searing can be. It provides a depth of flavor and textures, while also allowing the protein to retain moisture throughout the cooking process.

Terese: Where do you source meats from? How do you find the best animals and animal raisers?

Brad: Our raw proteins for the most part come from Iowa and our beef comes from Colorado. Wisconsin is still primarily a dairy production state in that most beef are dedicated towards growing our dairy industry. To find the quality and consistency we are looking for we have found beef from out West to best suit our customers’ needs.

Terese: Maplewood has been getting a lot of attention since Aaron Roger’s girlfriend lauded you on national television. What can you tell us about that?

Brad: To put that experience simply, it was just very humbling. It all became so much more than Olivia Munn just dropping our company’s name on the Conan O’Brien Show. It showed insight into both what type of individual Olivia Munn is and how our customers feel about our company as a whole. For a celebrity of her stature to fully integrate into our community by visiting local establishments is really cool and a testament to the importance of being part of the community you live in

Article from Edible Door at http://edibledoor.ediblecommunities.com/shop/whole-lot-bacon-going-maplewood-meats
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