Green family's resilience on display after fire
BY AMANDA BRODHAGEN
Several months after Green’s Meat Market, based in Wingham, burned to the ground, the family-run abattoir is in the midst of rebuilding. The family’s determination to carry on after a devastating fire is a testament to its resiliency.
Green’s Meat Market was founded in 1971 by John and Arlene Green, who took over a butcher shop in Wingham from the Deyell family. It has since grown from a small storefront with an abattoir outside of town to the processing facility that it was prior to the fire on June 24.
“The loss came as a complete blow to us as a family and as a business. We are very grateful that no one was injured, but it has nonetheless been devastating,” said Shaelin Green, company spokesperson and daughter of Green’s Meat Market’s owner Kevin Green.
But this isn’t the first time the Green family has faced a setback. There was also a fire in 2011, but thanks to the support from customers and the community, they were able to rebuild and continued to expand the business.
“We hope to follow in those footsteps and grow into something much bigger and better while making grandma and grandpa proud,” said Green. “John will be watching from above, having passed on Oct. 31, 2020. He was a huge part of the rebuild up until he passed and we hope to make him proud as we continue on this journey.”
Shaelin has been involved with the family business on and off over the years. Like most young people, she left her rural community to pursue a post-secondary education, earning a degree at the University of Guelph and working as a flight attendant for a few years. Ultimately she found her way back home shortly after the pandemic began. Shaelin and her sister Shelby, who are both in their early twenties, stepped in to help their grandparents during COVID-19 so they could safely stay at home.
“My sister and I are now full-time employees and I guess you could call us project managers,” she said. “We don’t have a specific title, but we play a part in the day-to-day operations and manage most of the rebuild activities.”
The decision to rebuild was a no-brainer for the Greens. The business has been a staple in the community for two generations, almost three with Shaelin and Shelby showing an interest in the enterprise. Interestingly, 2021 will mark the 50th anniversary of the market, which the family feels is a perfect scenario in which to rebuild and reopen for the community, hopefully by May or June.
One of the other factors the Green family took into account is the huge shortage of abattoirs and processors in Huron County and surrounding area, and the demand for local meat has only increased under COVID-19.
“Our customers and farmers have supported us for 50 years and we felt that we owed it to our community to get back up and running and provide the services that we do,” said Shaelin. “We were fully booked into 2021 and are already putting farmers down on a waitlist for when we reopen. Personally, I always knew that my family’s business was important, but the fire really showed me how much our agricultural community relies on us,” she explained.
The Green family has received a tremendous amount of support from the community. Church groups have collected donations, community members dropped off food in the days following the fire and local business owners have reached out to see what they could do to help. Shaelin said Green’s customers continue to support them at the Lucknow retail store and engage with them on social media. Shaelin said the family would also like to thank the Municipality of Morris-Turnberry, Huron County and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) for being helpful during the rebuilding process.
“The support we have received as a business and as a family has definitely been the silver lining in all of this,” she noted.
Now, given the chance to start from scratch with a new building, the Greens have dreamed up their wish list for what they would like to include in the build. “We are very excited about some of the new features we are implementing in the new building. We took our own experience, input from employees and recommendations from OMAFRA to make our new facility safe and efficient. Luckily, most of our equipment was salvageable, so the main piece of equipment we are purchasing is a new smokehouse,” said Shaelin.
The new smokehouse is touted to be faster and more efficient, which will allow the company to increase its production of smoked products for custom butchering and customers. The Greens are excited about this improvement.
When customers see the new building, the exterior will have a more modern and welcoming design, explained Shaelin. The family decided to stick with a similar external blueprint, but with improved flow in the interior. The main focus right now is to get the new facility up and running and, when the time is right, execute an overhaul of the kill floor and hanging cooler, with the hopes of increasing weekly slaughter numbers and space to hang carcasses in the cooler. The original kill floor and hanging cooler were salvaged, but it is an area of the plant that inhibits growth.
“Our current blueprint also includes a larger cutting and processing space. This means that in the future we will have room for more equipment and more bodies working,” said Shaelin. “It also means that we will be able to be in line with current COVID-19 procedures for processors. We have also expanded the smokehouse room. We are currently purchasing one smokehouse but hope to acquire another in the near future, hopefully through a funding opportunity.”
One of the most difficult things the Green family had to do following the fire was to lay off the majority of full- and part-time employees without enough work for everyone during the rebuild.
“We had an incredibly hard-working and dedicated group of staff in here at the time of the fire and we hope to be able to bring them back when we reopen, but completely respect that some have moved on to new exciting opportunities,” said Shaelin.
The Green family would also like to thank the farmers in their community for their patience and understanding as they navigate through this difficult time.
“We are so thankful to be located in a community of farmers and loyal customers that don’t just care about us as a business but as people and as a family. We are so excited to get back open and continue to serve the community like we have done for the past 50 years,” said Shaelin.
While these last few months have been challenging, the future is bright, with the new facility coming in 2021. The next generation hopes to help shape what Green’s Meat Market will look like for years to come and the business will have the opportunity to get back to doing what it does best: providing the same small town butcher service to customers, while also catering to modern trends and the changing needs of the community. Stay tuned for some new branding to go along with the updated facility, which the Green family hopes will add to their customers’ experience.