By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Ittel’s Meats has been a fixture in Howard Lake for decades, and this year, the company is celebrating 70 years in business.
The stock market crash of 1929, along with the Great Depression that followed, caused many families to change their way of life.
For some families, their new ventures did not pan out. Henry Ittel was one of the lucky ones who was able to create a business that is still around today.
Before the crash, Ittel had been a farmer. He lost everything in the stock market crash, according to his son, Jim Ittel.
Afterwards, Ittel went to Excelsior and worked in a meat plant. When that plant was sold, Ittel worked for an amusement park for awhile.
When Jim started grade school in Fairfax, Henry worked selling Moorman’s Feed, Jim recalled.
Henry then went to meat cutting school in Toledo, OH, where he graduated at the top of his class, according to Jim.
In 1940, Henry borrowed $100 and bought Akins Meat Market from Allen Akins. “The competition up the street (Charlie Stewart) gave (my dad) six months, and we’re still around 70 years later,” Jim said.
After buying Akins Meat Market, Henry experimented with different equipment and sausage formulations. He wanted to make his business as productive and appealing as possible, according to an article about Ittel’s Meats in “Meat Business Magazine” from July 1991.
Henry designed and built a hog dehairer in 1941, that fit the budget of country butchers and small locker operators and packers.
Howard Lake native Roy Farsmin handled the manufacturing, and E.F. Zuber, a sales expert, helped market the Ittel Hog Dehairer. More than 3,000 units were sold, according to Jim.
In 1956, Jim had just returned from a two-year stint in the army. He and Henry remodeled the business. More and more people had freezers at home and no longer needed to rent lockers, so they tore out the lockers and installed new coolers in their place.
After the remodeling was completed, there wasn’t enough work at Ittel’s Meats to keep Jim busy, so he went to the Toledo School of Meat Cutting in 1957.
After he had completed school, Jim and his wife, Carolyn, ventured to the Twin Cities area for a few years.
At first, Jim worked at a number of supermarkets, including Lund’s, and managed a Hove’s meat department. Then, in 1966, Jim invested in a meat market inside a PDQ convenience store.
He signed five-year leases at two convenience stores, and stocked the shelves with meat from Ittel’s in Howard Lake.
Eventually he was running three meat departments in PDQ’s and had 23 employees.
After Henry passed away in 1968, Jim’s mother, Eleanor, managed the meat market for a couple of years. Then, in 1970, Jim purchased the company from his mother and operated both the Howard Lake store and the meat departments in the PDQ stores in the Twin Cities area.
Finally, in 1975, Jim decided to move his family back to Howard Lake with a goal of making Ittel’s the most successful meat processing facility in the area.
Between 1989 and 1990, Jim was the director for the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP).
Over the years, Ittel’s Meats has won a number of state and regional awards for its products and has remained an award-winning meat market.
Although Ittel’s Meats has had its ups and downs, both Jim and Carolyn have persevered and Ittel’s Meats is still in business today.
Both Jim and Carolyn appreciate the loyalty of their customers.
Jim said he and Carolyn invite their customers to help them “celebrate 70 years of the love affair with Ittel’s Meats.”