Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 1, 2003

Ittel's Meats sold after 64 years of ownership

By Lynda Jensen

Ittel's Meats of Howard Lake was sold to a Waconia couple last week, following 64 years of family ownership by the late Henry and his son and daughter in law, Jim and Caroline Ittel.

However, the change may not even be noticed by customers, since the recipes, employees, and other details will remain exactly the same, Ittel said. It will continue to operate as the only USDA-inspected meat market in Wright County, new owner Don Schwartz said.

Don assumed ownership of the building and business with his wife Patti Schwartz Monday, although Ittel will remain on staff for a time to help.

In fact, Ittel has been teaching Don Schwartz the family business since May, he said. Schwartz has no background in meat processing, but is very interested in it.

"He's like a son to me," Ittel said of Don. "I've been teaching him everything I know."

"I've been learning to do everything the way Jim does," Don agreed. His favorite product is beef summer sausage, which Ittel's has earned awards for.

Indeed, the two connected in an uncommon way, since they have similiar attitudes and even their political ideas are alike, Ittel said.

Jim pointed out that the business wasn't advertised for sale. "I found the right person," he said.

When asked about parking, Don indicated it is definitely a concern of his. "I'm worried about safety and accessability for my customers."

Don formerly spent 23 years as a dairy farmer five miles southeast of Lester Prairie, and more recently seven years as a Thrivent Lutheran insurance agent in Hutchinson and Glencoe.

Interestingly enough, Patti Schwartz's grandfather Albert Thiel operated a butcher shop in Lester Prairie where the Porthole is now, during the mid 1960s, Don said. It was called the Sanitary Meat Market.

Don graduated from Mayer Lutheran 30 years ago, and Patti graduated from Lester Prairie High School in 1975.

The Schwartzes have three daughters and one son, Jenni, 25, Jacki, 23, Josi, 22, and Jon, 18. They are interested in the business, Don added.

Patti works as an office manager in Minnetonka. She will probably end up helping with the books, Don said.

Grandpa Ittel's will continue to supply seven grocery stores, Cub in Buffalo, The Marketplace in Annandale and Cokato, Glenn's SuperValu in Winsted, Cash Wise in Hutchinson, and the SuperValu in Litchfield.

Jim Ittel continues to own the chiropractic building next door, he said. The business will be renamed Grandpa Ittel's Meats.

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