When Glenn Roberts started his own business in 1979, he meant to only be a meat distribution company. At first, he kept a freezer truck, which he used to distribute meat on a regular route, and rented freezer space for whatever didn’t fit. He had a regular route and plenty of customers, and that customer base kept growing.
In 1983, he purchased an old market so he’d have more freezer space for his meat. His plan was to phase out the market to make way for growth in the meat distribution company. But things didn’t work out as planned. People started coming into the market, and then someone asked him to cater a party for them.
“We were going to do one catering job and, with that money, we were going to buy a pool,” says Jeff Roberts, vice president of Glenn’s Market and Catering. Jeff is also Glenn’s son. “So then we did the one catering job, and the retail store started making a little bit of money. More people wanted us to do catering, so we expanded into catering and retail store itself.”
It’s a similar story for when they started selling online. WisconsinMade Artisan Collective founders Linda and Rick Remeschatis walked into Glenn’s Market one day and asked if they could sell bratwurst online. Not one to pass up on the opportunity, Glenn agreed.
“The original way we got started was we bought a building to be a bigger distributor and we turned into a meat market instead,” Jeff says.
Today, Glenn’s Market and Catering is a fixture of Watertown, Wisconsin. They do more than sell meat and cater events, with a bakery and dog food shop included in the retail market as well. Online with WisconsinMade, the majority of their customers are former Wisconsinites, or wish to be Wisconsinites.
“The majority of the people that order brats from WisconsinMade from us are people who lived in Wisconsin, or they know people in Wisconsin, or they’ve been here,” Jeff says. “They tried our brats and they can’t get a brat that tastes as good wherever they’re at.”
Glenn’s Market and Catering continues to be a family-owned and operated business. Glenn still has a hand in the business by running day-to-day operations and purchasing the meat used in their products. Jennifer Richardson, Jeff’s sister, manages everything in the catering arm from the menu to staffing. Jeff himself, despite his official title as vice president, mostly oversees the retail store, purchasing non-meat products, and IT. Jennifer and Jeff have a brother named Tony, Glenn’s third child, who works as a computer engineer in Milwaukee.
Before working for the family business, both Jeff and Jennifer spent some time away from the company to gain some worldly experience.
“The biggest thing is, especially in a family-run business, people really need to get away and get experience as far as how the world really works,” Jeff says. “It’s different working for a family versus working for somebody else.”
That close-knit, family-run mentality bleeds into their interactions with customers both online and offline. People will keep coming back to a quality product because of the quality of the workmanship and customer service, no matter what the cost is. According to Jeff, “Money spent on quality is money well spent.”
“I always tell my father that we have more effect on people’s lives than I think we realize,” he continues. “We have people that come in on a daily basis. If you asked them why they came in, they would say, ‘you know what, I don’t know. I just went there, really liked it, so I came back.’ We’re so much more that way than being a meat market.”