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New meat processor brings home the groceries for Dover

June 24, 2017 GMT

DOVER — Justin Henry hasn’t seen a grocery store in Dover since he was about 12 or 13 years old.

He’s 38 now.

“It would be nice to just get your small necessities,” Henry said of the Dover Processing store that will open as part of the new locker plant in town.

The store -- which takes up about 500 square feet of the new meat processing facility owned by Eric and Linda Klein, who also own Hidden Stream Farm in Elgin — will carry meats and other basics with a longer shelf life, said Eric Klein.

“It’s really going to be driven by the town,” Klein said. The plan for now is to sell chips, bread, soda, condiments and maybe dry goods like flour mixes for pancakes and similar items. “I’ve got a lot of longterm ideas for marketing the food.”

One idea is to support local suppliers. For example, if the store carries cheeses, they would be sourced from local dairies. The chips and flour mixes would likely come from Whole Grain Milling located in the city of Welcome.

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Dover Mayor Roger Ihrke said having a grocery store in town — even a small one — is a benefit to the residents of Dover.

“That’s a big deal. You bet it is,” he said. “It’d be great to come home and say, I want steak tonight. Instead of driving to St. Charles or Eyota, it’s on the way home, or it’s three blocks from the house.”

A grocery store is just the first step in bringing more retail amenities to Dover, Ihrke said. Next, he’d like to see a gas station in town.

“It’s things like that that becomes a difference for people who live in Dover,” he said. “If you want to mow your lawn and have no gas, it’s a six or seven mile round trip to get gas to mow your lawn.”

The same has been true of even the most basic grocery necessities, Ihrke said. But having retail options in town will help keep residents from leaving. “You’ve got to have something like that,” he said.

Klein said Ihrke was one of the reasons he decided to create the retail space, saying the mayor asked him if it was possible when Klein bought the former T&R Flooring building in Dover. The other reason, he said, is one of his long-term employees, Geoff Hart, who will manage the locker plant for Klein.

“Geoff has been working with me on this for a lot of years,” Klein said. “He lives about a mile or so out of town, so I wanted someplace close to him, and he saw this space.”

Hart said he often comes into Dover to exercise horses and has wished there was a place he could buy snacks and soft drinks. Now that place exists.

The locker plant will process hogs, lambs, goats and beef. One of its biggest customers will be Klein’s own farm in Elgin, and he plans to sell those meats — including some specialty bratwursts — in the Dover store. The overall space in the locker plant is about 8,500 square feet, Klein said.

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The grocery store will take up about 500 square feet of that. “It’s not a major part of our business,” Klein said. “We’re not going to be Hy-Vee or even Casey’s or Kwik Trip.”

Being a small business, he can quickly make changes to meet the needs of customers. “It’s going to be driven by the customer and the city,” Klein said. “The nice thing about being a small business is you can change direction quickly.”

Henry said he plans to change some of his shopping habits to support the store where he can. Currently, he does most of his shopping for himself and his daughter either in Rochester or St. Charles.

“It would be nice to just get your small necessities in town,” he said.