RJ's Fresh Meats and Groceries' success spans 25 years
Aug. 31 marks an anniversary for Rick Reams and his family. On that day 25 years ago he and his wife Anne bought Jim's Meats.
Reams' family moved to Hudson in 1972, when his father chose a transfer to St. Paul over the options of moving to Washington, D.C., or Saudi Arabia.
"We arrived here from Ohio via California," said Rick, whose father worked for the telephone company. While still in high school Reams started to work for Jim Schmitz who owned Jim's Meats, which was in the present location. It was also a Tom Thumb Superette.
"I enjoyed the work and Jim made it fun," said Reams, who graduated from Hudson High School in 1979. "I always worked Sunday mornings. One Sunday he brought a front quarter of beef and started to cut it."
"I asked him how he knew where to cut," said Reams. "He taught and provided me with an education including learning how to cut." After graduation Reams stayed on learning more and more of the trade from Schmitz.
"In 1982, I decided I wanted to see more of the world so I enlisted in the Air Force for four years," said Reams. Two years later in 1984 he married Anne Koshenina, a native of Roberts. The couple met while she was a waitress at what was LaBon's Truck Stop and he was frequent customer because one of his closest friends worked there as well.
While stationed in Idaho, a spot working in the base commissary for a meat cutter opened up. Reams asked for it. Already, he was sensing what direction his life would lead, since he had been cutting elk, mule deer and antelope for other servicemen.
In January of 1986, after being discharged from the Air Force, he walked back through the door of Jim's Meats. Schmitz threw him an apron and offered him $5 per hour, 50 cents less than he had been making. Reams donned the apron and never left the store.
"I don't regret it a bit," said Reams. It was Aug. 1, 1987, when Schmitz, who had already severed ties with Tom Thumb, had 30 days left on his lease. Reams took over on Aug. 31, 1987, and he has never looked back.
Under his ownership, the business, which soon became RJ's Fresh Meats and then RJ's Fresh Meats and Groceries, has flourished.
"When I bought the store, we made five types of sausage and that was it," said Reams, who is a long-time member of two trade organizations: The American Association of Meat Processors and The Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors.
"The Association (AAMP) has made the store what it is," said Reams. "Today we have too many products to count; 50 different flavors of brats and 12 or 13 different snack sticks and nine different summer sausages are a few."
He credits much of his success to mentoring by fellow meat processors in the associations and from attending nearly all of the educational seminars offered by them.
The business remains family oriented with at least one family member being in the store every hour it is open.
"Some Saturdays nothing but Reams are here," said Rick. "It's been rewarding. I have had extended family work here as well including three nieces." Anne has worked right alongside Rick and added a bakery department, which provides fresh rolls and buns to compliment the meat products.
All three of their sons have worked there as well.
The second generation of Reams is already involved. Anthony, the oldest son works full time and Aaron, who is finishing a degree in business management at UW-River Falls, currently works there and plans to join the business full time after graduation.Joe who will be a senior at HHS this fall, works part-time at the store.
RJ's Fresh Meats and Groceries is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; the meat cutting department opens at 8 a.m. On Saturday both are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday both are open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"People question why I have shortened hours on Sunday," said Reams. "I realized one day that the young man standing tall next to me was my son. It was time to take more time for the family."
For more information, go to www.rjmeats.com.
Next week, we will take you behind the scenes to the nation's largest competition for meat processors. Over the years RJ's Meats has earned nearly 100 awards for excellence.