In the town of Boerne, Texas, about 20 miles northwest of San Antonio, Colton Sells and Clayton Klein, co-owners of Klein Smokehaus, have a reputation for quality, clean meats they call “Pure Texas German “.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that business partners took over a seven-decade-old meat processing company just over a year ago. They are on the cutting edge of using premium craftsmanship and understand the wants and wishes of their Hill Country clientele to ensure they will be around for generations to come.
The company was started as a grocery store in 1950 by the Waldeck family. In 1976, the San Antonio area’s population sprawl brought chain supermarkets to their town and it was reduced to a custom and retail meat store under the Farmers Meat Market banner.
Fast forward to 2006, when a Hill Country native named Barret Klein bought the facility and used his expertise as a Texas A&M University animal science graduate with a master’s degree in meat science. from Colorado State University and his industry experience to bring new ideas to the butcher shop. in Boern.
The focus was on smoked meats and German-style cured sausages, but the guiding light was that the store always harked back to simpler times when the owner of a meat shop knew every customer by name and face.
Clayton Klein, the youngest son of Barret and his wife Claire, grew up in the business, or literally the meat locker. From an early age, he spent after-school hours and weekends hanging, skinning, grinding and packing deer. After graduating from Boerne High School, he pursued a baseball career at Seminole State and Galveston College. He then moved to Texas A&M and earned a Bachelor of Science in Construction. Still, he found the knife handle suited him better than the hammer and returned to his roots at Klein Smokehaus. It seems that he had a passion for smoking meat and being surrounded by hunters.
In May 2021, Barret sold the business to his son Clayton, now 25, and Colton Sells, 37. Colton, also a graduate in animal science from Texas A&M with a major in meat science, had worked for some notable companies for years, including Texas Meat. Suppliers, J Bar B Foods, Harris Ranch Beef and Hudson Sausage. He also worked with the Klein family for several years where he gained more experience and diversity in meat processing. He returned to the Texas Hill Country with a dream of being involved in a meat business with a family. Now, with his wife Beth and three children, his vision and wishes are much closer to reality. These future young deer helpers will soon be appearing on the scene of full service and quality meat processing.
The 10,000 square foot facility operates under state retail and customs inspection and produces approximately 40 of its own unique specialties like dry cold smoked German sausages, brats, binding sausages (regular and Jalapeno and cheese), summer sausages, sausage rings and casseroles. sausage.
In Texas, if you say you’re great at something, you better back it up. Using the abundance of oak trees that flourish in the Hill Country, Klein Smokehaus offers beef brisket, smoked turkey, ground beef wrapped in bacon, and pulled pork.
“Our local newspaper has an annual voting process that allows readers to choose their favorite merchants, service companies and county vendors,” Klein said. “We have won the best barbecue award for 13 consecutive years.”
Then there’s this little thing in Texas called game processing and few companies have a reputation for serving and satisfying more hunters than Klein Smokehaus.
“We process up to 5,000 big game animals a year,” Klein continued. “They love our specialties like steaks and chops, dry sausages, burger hashes, stew meats, chili and fajita meats, snack sticks, pepper jerky and more.
“We host mule deer, white-tailed deer, wild hogs, antelope, elk and axes (an exotic six-pointed spotted deer) which are abundant in the Texas Hill Country. We also source inspected exotic game meats and sell or process them into value-added products for our customers.
Both before and since taking over the store, the co-owners have expanded their sausage production area, retail and cold storage areas, and added a 54-seat food court where regular customers and tourists hang out. stop by to snack on their popular smoked turkey, brisket, pork loin, smoked ham and other Klein BBQ Arena favorites. As shrewd traders, the partners also sell their barbecue items by the pound (to-go) and thinly slice smoked turkey, pork loin and smoked ham into luncheon meats.
When asked how this Main Street meat shop, where meat flavor sells, became so popular, Sells said simply, “We sell quality. We sell our pride. We sell our cleanliness. We sell our customers with our smiles. I believe we have a personal relationship with everyone when they feel we are happy to see them. We still want to continue to welcome that hometown, that local vibe.
Another way for Klein Smokehaus to attract and retain customers is to support the Boerne community of 20,000 people. They support their local 4-H and Future Farmers of America, help sponsor school cheerleaders and dance teams, and forgo advertising on radio, newspapers, or billboards. Klein calls this “word of mouth” or “community spirit” advertising.
Klein and Sells work diligently to partner with area ranchers, restaurant owners, and even private game breeders to process their products under private labels.
Still, they are staffed with 11 staff, a number that will increase to 35 (including part-timers) during the busy gaming processing season. Both admit the transition from management to ownership has been a challenge, saying that as managers they understand and work with the details of a small business, but as owners they feel them personally. and take them home to think about it.
Partners use the kleinsmokehaus.com website and social media to keep customers and potential customers interested in their services and to ship mail orders. They are also happy with the volume of gift boxes and party platters they can produce. Their signature products include their variety of barbecue items, from oak-smoked bacon and those hard-to-find or hard-to-reproduce dry German sausages.
Sells explained that a new offering from the Smokehaus is its deli gift set, featuring more upscale items like smoked beef and pork tenderloin, hard salami, jams and mustards, to “dress it up.” .
For future growth, the Aggie duo is targeting growing demand for Klein Smokehaus’ catering service. Although they already have the “fixes” ready for pick up for most group events, including potato and broccoli salads, they plan to hold some offsite events like weddings, reunions and birthday parties.
“There is definitely a market there,” they said. “We already have a barbecue and a trailer that we can deliver to sites outside the city.”