Whether the grill is calling or area residents just have a hankering for a delicious piece of meat, more and more of them look to Geiss Meat Service LLC, W4490 Pope Rd., Merrill.
Geiss Meat Service has been serving Central Wisconsin residents for 63 years and counting. The full-service slaughter and processing facility is still situated on the same property on which Geiss’ late grandparents, Edwin and Marcella Geiss, established the business. What started as a way to process not only their own animals but the animals of their neighbors quickly took off. The generation stepped in the late 1970s with John Geiss, Jerry Geiss, Gary Schlueter and Val Schlueter. Andy Geiss, current owner, started managing the daily operations in 1999 and purchased the company in 2005.
As with most of the Geiss family, his learning curve and involvement with the family business dates back to childhood. At age 8, he served as a clean-up boy, a role that then evolved into wrapping production. When old enough to handle a knife, he learned processing methods the family used to create consistent, high-quality meat products
Later, Uncle Gary turned Geiss onto making cooked products including the sausage line of the business that has grown exponentially to include more than 100 different smoked sausage products.
Today, Geiss Meat Service is a 28-employee operation that continues to make customers their first priority. While new products continually make their way into the product mix, many of the business’s recipes remain the same.
We continue to keep our standard formula and work with them,” Geiss said. “So, the summer sausage my Uncle Gary created in 1976 is made the same way today. It’s not about making a cheaper, low-quality product; it’s about quality.”
Quality takes many forms including expanding the types of products housed within Geiss Meat Services’ coolers and freezers. In response to customer requests, Geiss Meat Services is state and MOSA organic certified, an area of the business that continues to grow.
The increased variety of sausage products is also in response to customer demand, aligning with the trend that sausages are enjoying unprecedented sales in the United States as new flavors, convenient products and great-tasting old standards enjoy steady category growth, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.
“Every day, we see more and more people coming into the retail shop for sausage with a surge in just the past six months,” Geiss said. “I sense that’s a huge part of the future for us.” Popular selections include 30 to 40 types of precooked brats, summer sausage, salami and snack sticks. Geiss hopes to add a 40’ X 60’ expansion on the sausage kitchen yet this summer because demand keeps increasing. This follows a 20’ X 30’ expansion to the processing area two years ago as well as a 30’ X 40’ expansion to the slaughter floor last year to handle beef and pork more safely.
With all the growth in sausage and retail sales, the business’s mainstay is still custom slaughtering and processing. With the exception of a few windows of time at the end of summer, Geiss Meat Service’s calendar for beef and pork processing is booked until February next year, “and that’s with 60 to 70 head on the books every week that entire time,” Geiss said. The fall is by far the business’s busy time with processing of wild game. In 2018, Geiss Meat Service processed more than 900 deer and 250 bears.
Customers apparently like what Geiss Meat Service does as about 80 percent of business is repeat business whereas about 20 percent is from new customers. Slaughtering comprises about 60 percent of the family business whereas sausage is 25 percent and the remaining 15 percent is in retail sales in the small storefront.
The company elevated itself by becoming involved in the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors (WAMP) in 2005 as well as when Geiss became a master meat crafter through the University of Wisconsin-Madison meat science program. The program focuses on meat science, food safety and meat processing principles, and Geiss credits it with giving him further insights into how to improve products for the customer.
“It really fit because we are all about quality in and quality out here,” he said.
That’s been acknowledged with numerous awards including recognition Geiss Meat Service received at the 80th annual convention of WAMP in Madison in early April. Geiss won first place on six meat products including its cooked summer sausage, traditional boneless ham and traditional beef stick; second place on two meat products; third place on two products; fourth place on two products; fifth place on three meat products; and also the WAMP Product Show Award of Excellence in Manufacture Award.
“Every single award means the world to me and our whole family including the employees behind-the-scenes working very hard,” he said. “I would not be here today if it weren’t for them and my whole family.”
Together, they have kept pace with the times by incorporating more technology both in everyday processing operations as well as things such as Facebook and creation of a new web page .
Speaking of sausage, customer favorites today include top sellers summer sausage and garlic summer sausage — which are never outsold —as well as other favorites including jalapeno and cheese salami sausage, old world summer sausage, braunschweiger, variety of marinated chicken breast, Badger brats, mushroom and swiss brats, beef sticks and pickle sticks.
Next up is continuing to build on retail sales and considering options to expand the existing building or even building a separate retail store altogether.
“Our customer processing was basically the whole business for years, but because of our achievements and learning new things daily, retail sales are increasing monthly,” Geiss said. “Since I purchased the business in 2005, sales have doubled.”
While customers come from throughout the state, the majority are in Central Wisconsin, and Geiss couldn’t be happier with the support of the Merrill community.
"Merrill has always been a very supportive town,” he said. “There are so many great small business owners like me, and we continue to support each other year round. For example, our local Eagles Club purchases our beef liver and hamburger steaks for their special nights, and Les n’ Jim’s purchases sirloin tips for their events. Church Mutual supports us by allowing us to ship out gift boxes to their customers worldwide every year. We are fortunate all around.”