Local Revolving Loan Fund Supports Entrepreneurs

27 Nov 2017

For decades, Americans have preferred the convenience of one-stop-shopping for all of their groceries. But a growing consciousness in recent years about quality, buying local and knowing where food comes from has been driving a resurgence of small specialty shops nationwide.

Such small businesses can be quite successful, but they require considerable capital to launch. Often entrepreneurs with aspirations need an extra boost to get their businesses off the ground.

butcher block logo

Fairmont Butcher Block is a prime example of this. Jeff Schmidt owns the retail meat and custom butcher shop that opened in February of 2017. He points to one of the reasons local butcher shops have been dwindling. “A lot of people get to retirement age and have no one to take over — there are not many people trained to take over,” he says.

Schmidt always wanted to own his butcher shop. He worked for Hy-Vee for 15 years, most of those managing the meat department. He also trained for meat cutting in Pipestone and spent 8 years working in a custom butcher shop in Lakefield, which helped him learn the intricacies of the craft.

A native of Okabena, Schmidt was in Fairmont one day and noticed the former Olson Locker butcher shop was for sale. He thought it had great potential. It was attractive from the outside but needed a complete remodel and new equipment. A substantial investment was required for it to become fully functional.

Schmidt approached a number of banks in town about a small business loan, but they were reluctant to take on the risk. Eventually, he appealed to the city and learned about the Fairmont Economic Development Authority (FEDA) revolving loan program.

This program helps new Fairmont businesses bridge common financing gaps with a reduced interest rate loan that can be used to purchase real estate, equipment and inventory.

Schmidt received a $75,000 from the fund. He also received a $75,000 grant from the State of Minnesota. This combined capital helped make his dream a reality.

The shop took about a year to remodel. “Nothing was up to code… When I came in, I gutted it from wall to wall and put in all new equipment,” says Schmidt. He invested in essentials such as a new refrigerator, walk-in cooler and freezer. The flooring, wall and ceilings were upgraded too.

Fairmont Butcher Block has just about anything you’d see in a supermarket, on a smaller scale, according to Schmidt. “What interests people most is that they know it’s done in-store. It’s not cut in a warehouse and pre-packed or injected to have a longer shelf life. It’s cut fresh in the store.”

meat case

Schmidt smokes meat in-house, which also sets him apart from grocery stores. And he does custom processing, which is in demand. In addition to hogs, cattle, lamb and sheep that customers buy from local farmers, he processes elk and deer for local hunters. He’s already booked well into next year for this custom processing.

Schmidt is grateful for the local support for his business. “I can’t hardly believe it or ask for much better,” he says. “The retail store is doing very well. I’m not hearing any negative feedback … Everybody who says something says something positive.”