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Archive for Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pyle Meat Co. packing up

Recession ‘far worse than any other’ on Eudora business

Pat Pyle packages some of the last beef jerky on Thursday at Pyle’s Meat in Eudora. Pyle’s is closing after 50 years of being in business.

Pat Pyle packages some of the last beef jerky on Thursday at Pyle’s Meat in Eudora. Pyle’s is closing after 50 years of being in business.

April 11, 2010

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— Four hundred pounds of beef jerky cools in the stainless steel smoker in the back room.

In the front room, Tom Pyle grabs a seat at the employee lunch table, while son Pat wipes it clean from a homemade meal that his mother had brought them, as she does each day.

Eudora meat company to close after 50 years

The Pyle Meat Co. has been a family operation since it opened, but a drop in jerky sales is forcing it to close. Enlarge video

Tom Pyle, left, watches his son Tom Pyle Jr. package some of the last beef jerky Thursday at Pyle Meat Co. in Eudora. The company was in business for 50 years but is closing its doors as a result of the recession.

Tom Pyle, left, watches his son Tom Pyle Jr. package some of the last beef jerky Thursday at Pyle Meat Co. in Eudora. The company was in business for 50 years but is closing its doors as a result of the recession.

“Cherokee Fiddle” — an old Johnny Lee song — plays on the radio. The lyrics are about a bygone era. So too, it seems, is this.

Tom Pyle looks over a rack of jerky that is cooling, some of the last 400 pounds the company made this week. Pyle Meat Company in Eudora is making its last batch of beef jerky and sausage before closing up shop.

Tom Pyle looks over a rack of jerky that is cooling, some of the last 400 pounds the company made this week. Pyle Meat Company in Eudora is making its last batch of beef jerky and sausage before closing up shop.

“A lot of times,” Pyle says, “when people have something like this happen, they blame the bank or somebody. But I’m not blaming anybody. I’m just saying it is a sign of the times. It is what’s happening.”

One of Pyle Meat Company's staple items, the Hombre Beef Jerky, sits on racks to cool. The company in Eudora is making closing up shop after 50 years in business.

One of Pyle Meat Company's staple items, the Hombre Beef Jerky, sits on racks to cool. The company in Eudora is making closing up shop after 50 years in business.

The cooling jerky is the last batch for Eudora-based Pyle Meat Co. The company has been in business since 1959. Since the late 1970s, it has been making a name for itself by selling Hombre beef jerky and smoked sausages at convenience and grocery stores throughout the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City area.

But this nationwide recession has tempered the flames of backyard grills everywhere and has left many a lunch pail unused. Pyle now says what many business owners have felt — this recession has been unlike any other.

“It has been far worse than any other, maybe twice as worse,” Pyle says. “This time it hit almost all at once. I kept thinking it will be all right, it will be all right. But I was wrong. It’s not.”

• • •

When Pyle took over the aging butcher shop in downtown Eudora there were 800 people in the Kaw River town just east of Lawrence. There also were five grocery stores.

Early on, one grocer — long since gone — came by to say hello. He welcomed the newcomer to town and gave him a bit of advice. Just make a living butchering a few steers and hogs for the local farmers. But don’t go stocking that meat case to sell to the townsfolk.

“He said if I did, he would run me out of business,” Pyle recalled. “I told him that may happen. I said I had a thousand dollars to stock that meat case, and when it was gone I would walk up the street and tell him he was right. I never walked up that street.”

That seems like a long time ago. Around the lunch table, though, the memories are still fresh from when the shop operated its own slaughterhouse — up to 5,000 head a year. Occasionally a nervous steer would escape out the front door and run down Eudora’s Main Street.

That’s the same street where employees — at one time there were 18 of them — would sit along the curb to take their 15-minute breaks. The traffic along the street was so heavy that it was nearly certain somebody would stop to shoot the breeze.

“A 15-minute break usually turned into a 30-minute break, much to the chagrin of the boss,” said Pat Pyle.

Pat is one of four Pyle children — they’re grown now, Tom Pyle Jr., Roberta Lehmann and Rose Pyle House — who still work for the company. All seven of Pyle’s children have worked for the company at one time or another. About the only Pyle who has never officially worked for the business is Pyle’s wife of 59 years, Alberta.

She’s the one he worries about most.

“She’s taking this really hard,” said Pyle. “She tries to be brave around me, but this is her hometown, these are her kids. It is hard on me, but I’m at the practical part because of the money. I’ve got an obligation to support her, which is what I told her dad when I asked for his permission to marry her. I’m still going to hold onto that pledge.”

• • •

When things were really rolling, the Pyle Meat Co. would smoke 1,200 pounds of beef jerky a week. Now, a batch of 400 pounds is about it.

“I could see the handwriting on the wall for a while now,” said Pat, who oversees production with his brother. “I just didn’t want to admit it.”

He can see what’s behind it all too. Perhaps man can’t live on bread and water alone, but beef jerky doesn’t make many lists of staples.

“I think most everyone would agree that beef jerky is kind of a luxury snack food because it is a lot more expensive than just buying a bag of chips,” Pat Pyle said.

Controlling costs is easier said than done. Jerky is a time-consuming product to make. Each batch takes at least six hours in a 185-degree smoker. The bottom line is, you have to make so much jerky to cover basic overhead costs.

That’s why big snack food companies — who also happen to make beef jerky — can survive. They can pay stores for the best shelf space. Pyle’s never did, and sometimes got placed in the oddest of places — right next to the condoms in one convenience store. Who knows? Maybe it worked.

But it doesn’t any more. That is what the Pyle Meat Co. has come to understand. But understanding it doesn’t make it any easier.

The store’s last day of operation will be Saturday. An auction to sell the business’s equipment is set for April 21.

“Going home from that auction,” said Pat, who has worked for the company for 30 years, “I suspect I’ll have to pull off and stop a few times.”

• • •

Around the table, there’s talk that perhaps somebody will come in and buy it all — the recipes, the equipment, the whole operation — and some part of this will live on.

But it wouldn’t be Pyle Meat Co. The old cafeteria-style menu board hanging from the wall, pictures of old town Eudora in rough-sawn frames, photos of all 34 Pyle grandchildren in an ornate hardwood case.

“That’s what is going to be really strange,” said daughter Roberta Lehmann. “Just not coming in and seeing my brothers and sister every day.”

Pyle said he has had discussions with at least three people interested in buying the business. But hope does not rise too high. These times see to that.

“I just think people are afraid to go into business for themselves right now,” Pyle said.

But still, maybe. Much has changed in the business world of late. But Pyle is still convinced the secret to a business’ success still remains relatively simple.

“You know, a fellow’s bread and butter is making someone happy,” Pyle says. “That’s still your bread and butter.”

In the meantime, the jerky cools.

Comments

hail2oldku 4 years, 8 months ago

I'm sorry to read this news. You and your business will be missed Tom. That last batch of jerky won't last long. There are tons of Hombre fans like me out there.

countrygirl 4 years, 8 months ago

Their sausage is awesome and will be very missed by our family. Best wishes to them.

Boston_Corbett 4 years, 8 months ago

Where are all those localvores who are supposed to exist around here? Or is it locovores?

Stuart Evans 4 years, 8 months ago

15 months of one, 8 years of another, 8 years of a different one, 4 years of someone else, 8 years further...There is no single party, or one single man responsible for our economic woes. It is dozens if not hundreds of years of poor choices and bad policies. Our economic woes have everything to do with the choices we make as Americans, and everything to do with the foreign influence and power grab of our elected officials. All of them. Not the Repubs or the Dems in particular. It's every single one of them.

While we sit and fight over lefty & righty, they are all getting together in Topeka or Washington or at the UN and having a good laugh at how blinded and ignorant we are; ready for their next intrusive money making scheme.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 8 months ago

Pyle's made good jerky, as opposed to the tasteless, ignorant jerky edjayhawk makes.

BorderRuffian 4 years, 8 months ago

Edjayhawk - just stuff it!!! We are losing a great local business and all you can do it pull the corners of your cardboard box "house" up around your ears and go back to your mealy-mouthed politics. Shame on you, shame! If ANYONE is guilty of support for large corporations, it is the present "Anointed" leadership with their ridiculous bailouts of lage corporations.

But that is not the point. The point is, we are losing Pyle's - and we are all the worse for that. Thank you Pyle's for your years of wonderful service.

NotASquishHead 4 years, 8 months ago

Sounds like the "change" Hussein Obama has been preaching. Very, very sad.

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

Let's hope the senate will filibuster the rest of his change. All they need to know is "NO".

ivalueamerica 4 years, 8 months ago

The change was too late from the great disaster left for him by the most failed President in US history.

I knew Obama could not fix Bush's failures in 2 years, no one could. I always predicted 6 years at least to recover from 8 years of Bush destroying America.

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

Its a shame the only beef jerky that isn't utter teriyaki garbage is going away.

BorderRuffian 4 years, 8 months ago

then go back to your self-righteous "health food eating" and leave the good stuff to the rest of us. Go eat your miserable tofu paste and feellike you are better than the rest of us.

Personally, I am grateful for the years of service Pyle's has provided this community. We shall miss them.

Matt Bowers 4 years, 8 months ago

I haven't ever had the jerky because I left Lawrence about 15 years ago. I do know that deer jerky is darn good and a pretty big deal in the South. Maybe if someone buy's the business they good diversify, by making both beef and deer jerky. Buy the deer meat from the hunter, it is usually really cheap, it could be seasonal...like beer!

Stop blaming political parties, you sound as ignorant as Washington D.C. Instead of blaming, how about offering a solution. The way I see it, this type of government spending and borrowing started with Reagan and hasn't stopped. Both parties spend more than they have, borrow money from whatever country will give it, and then take if from other rainy day funds to pay off the debt. How many of you would expect a bank to keep giving you money that you couldn't pay back? How is the country going to pay it back? Nobody wants taxes but they want everything from the government, guess we'll just have a huge inflation to raise the value of our currency and then pay down the debt. Either way, BOTH PARTIES ARE RESPONSIBLE.

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

This thread is starting to reek of "hippie".

Corey Williams 4 years, 8 months ago

The musk of the hippie is still a lot better than the "fear" and "paranoia" given off by your average right winger.

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

That's just because you like the smell of pot.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 8 months ago

Worth repeating: • jkealing (Jonathan Kealing) says… bronze- I've warned you privately, now I'll warn you publicly. You do not have bearded_gnome's name correct. If you don't immediately cease to attempt to out an anonymous user, your account will be banned. In addition, I will immediately ban any account I suspect to be created by you without notice, warning or further cause. This is your final warning. Jonathan Kealing Online editor

––––– How has paulette2 lasted this long Jonathan?

secrettoalonglife 4 years, 8 months ago

One of the few reasons to get back there is going away... sorry to hear this. Hombre is the best beef jerky anywhere... and I've been most everywhere.

Deja Coffin 4 years, 8 months ago

I know my family is sure going to miss Pyle's jerky. Sorry to see them go.

BruceWayne 4 years, 8 months ago

snap- i LOVE beef jerkey, but I could really go for some good homemade swedish meatballs. anyone in Lawrence serve that you know of? maybe get some delivered?(in a Volvo of course)

Jeff Cuttell 4 years, 8 months ago

The Pyle family business will be missed. They used be in stores handing out samples of their product and did much more marketing 10 years ago. I wonder if those cut backs had anything to do with this.

I hope this story is up on eudoranews.com soon. It would be interesting to see what some of the Eudora locals have to say. The main street in Eudora seems to have just given up. They should all band together and market the new look of downtown as an out of the way and laidback area to come. Maybe some new businesses would take a chance there then.

Clint Church 4 years, 8 months ago

What happened to them expanding and putting the sausages in other grocery stores. The sausages are incredible. I would think they would make alot more money on them than the jerky.

freestitch 4 years, 8 months ago

I typically don't eat much beef jerky, but when I do crave a little, I always choose Hombre. Pyle's will be missed.

BigPrune 4 years, 8 months ago

This is unfortunate. I too like their beef jerky and the Pyles are good people.

....and if someone blames the "corporations," it's Pyle Meat Company, Incorporated - so it is a corporation.

It's a sign of the times. There will be far fewer small "corporations" in the future, thanks to Heir Obama (even though small businesses are the backbone of this country and offer greater job security than the big boys).

Matt Bowers 4 years, 8 months ago

edjayhawk, you blame but offer no solutions. what should be done? are you more than just opinionated? both parties are guilty of steering this country in the wrong direction. get real. one man is not above the legislative and judicial branch of government. you really are irritating, just listen to rush and get your your simple minded head fed.

deskboy04 4 years, 8 months ago

I like their beef jerky. I usually don't buy jerky, but the Pyle's stuff is so good...

I don't think that you can blame this on either political party.

Alexander Neighbors 4 years, 8 months ago

Does anyone know where I can order some hombree jerkey online ??

crazyredneckmomma4 4 years, 8 months ago

This is the worse thing that could happen. I love Hombre beef jerky, heck my whole family loves it. Every Saturday morning before my children's soccer games we would buy some Hombre beef jerky and enjoy it during the games. Another family tradition gone because of this darn recession. I really hope someone buys the business and continues to make the BEST BEEF JERKY IN THE WORLD.

Jimbecile 4 years, 8 months ago

I love Hombre jerky, but I moved to the west coast a few years ago. How tough would it be to order some? I was bummed to read this article.

heybluekc 4 years, 8 months ago

p>Patsbeefjerky.com much better than Hombre anyway. And I mean much better.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 8 months ago

I love the jerky, and Paulette2 [Py he's a man, well sort of] jerky is a very good source of protein and B vitamins.

sausages! yeah!


Ajayhawk, instead of listening to that insane moron Olbermann, try the Wall Street Journal which has repeatedly indicated that the current recession/employment slump is severely prolonged by Obama's policies, taxes, and forcing the health care debacle on us. dozens of major corporations report losses expected because of the health care debacle, you think that doesn't have an economic effect on Main Street? if you think not, you really are an idiot, but then you listen to Olbermann, so oh well.

gatekeeper 4 years, 8 months ago

Oh yeah, the WSJ that Murdock bought and corrupted. It now covers more politics than anything else. If you trust it for your news, you're just dumb.

kscityrobber 4 years, 8 months ago

Somebody please tell me why this stuff cost a arm and a leg to buy so little? trust they wont starve...

BruceWayne 4 years, 8 months ago

maybe they can give Paulette a free sample...if they bump into each other in the unemployment line.

ozzynbn 4 years, 8 months ago

ozzynbn (anonymous) says… Edjayhawk..... shut the hell up.

Edjayhawk: Why? Because its the truth, or are you too dumb to understand this?

ozzynbn: no, because you don't know what the hell you are talking about. You're nothing but lip service.

Jimbecile 4 years, 8 months ago

It's not because of Obama, or big business.

They are closing the doors because the building is Haunted.

Duh! you guys

BruceWayne 4 years, 8 months ago

Worth repeating: • jkealing (Jonathan Kealing) says… bronze- I've warned you privately, now I'll warn you publicly. You do not have bearded_gnome's name correct. If you don't immediately cease to attempt to out an anonymous user, your account will be banned. In addition, I will immediately ban any account I suspect to be created by you without notice, warning or further cause. This is your final warning. Jonathan Kealing Online editor

––––– How has paulette2 lasted this long Jonathan?

UlyssesPro 4 years, 8 months ago

A specter is haunting Lawrence: the specter of meat eating. Go Vegetarian.

unite2revolt 4 years, 8 months ago

This is from the buying tips section of Pat's website.

4) Remember what Pat always says, "You may be able to beat our prices, but you can't beat our meat."

unite2revolt 4 years, 8 months ago

And for the record I am sad to see Hombre disappear from local shelves. It has been a long time favorite and has sustained me through many a road trip.

BruceWayne 4 years, 8 months ago

paulette2 (anonymous) says… there goes Bruce again bloviating - and yet saying nothing.

this confirms what we all knew...how's the drainage with all this spring rain?

Flap Doodle 4 years, 8 months ago

Relax and have a sugar-free popsicle, paulette. It's a cool and fruity treat on a spring day.

frank mcguinness 4 years, 8 months ago

Still bummed about this. I am suprised they couldn't find a way to make it work.

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