Lewright Meats closes doors for now
EAGLE GROVE — Lewright Meats has been a staple in Eagle Grove and the surrounding communities since 1936, but now, they’re being forced to close their doors as they recover from a devastating fire.
Ethan Bubeck, owner and plant manager of Lewright Meats, announced Tuesday that Friday will be the last day they are open in order to sell out their remaining stock until they are able to reopen.
“We’re working very hard to figure out the next steps and the best way that we’ll be able to again serve our customers in Eagle Grove and the surrounding communities as quickly as possible,” said Bubeck.
Bubeck recapped the events of Sept. 22, the day of the fire.
“A fire started in the brick smokehouse at about nine in the morning,” he said. “We were all there working and processing as normal and the smokehouse was actually cooling down.”
Bubeck said one staff member noticed smoke coming from the smokehouse and went back to check on it. When the employee opened the door, Bubeck said “It was just this cloud of darkness that engulfed the entire inside of the building in minutes.”
Bubeck said the fire completely destroyed the two smokehouses and spread into the slaughter room. It destroyed the wiring to the carcass cooler and the ready- to-eat cooler as well as part of the actual ready-to-eat cooler.
Bubeck said, “The fire was so hot it melted light fixtures right off of the ceiling.”
In addition to the fire damage, Bubeck said the smoke spread through the whole plant.
“It was burning plastic, fiberglass, rubber foam, and I’m used to smoke, I work in a smokehouse, but you would hit this smoke and it was like hitting a brick wall,” said Bubeck.
“Black smoke covered the carcasses that were in our carcass cooler waiting to be processed. We had fresh meat waiting to be cured and they were just completely black. Everything has smoke damage.”
Bubeck said they filled a 20 yard dumpster with processed meat and had to throw out just under 11 tons of carcasses. Bubeck said the amount of loss has been hard for everyone there.
“Just the sheer loss of the meat and it’s not just that, it’s the emotional attachment that you have tied to your work and tied to what you do, especially when you take pride in your work and all of our team does,” said Bubeck.
Bubeck said one employee did have to be hospitalized for a short time due to smoke inhalation but is doing fine now. Bubeck said he is thankful no one was injured and they fully plan to reopen. “It was a hard blow, and we’re doing everything we can to get back up and running and moving forward. We 100 percent anticipate reopening, we just don’t exactly know where or what form that will be,” Bubeck said.
Bubeck said with rising meat prices, they’ve seen an increase in customers who want farm-to-table meat. Because of that increased demand, Bubeck said meat lockers all over the state are fully booked for processing.
“I sold more halves, wholes, and quarter beef last year alone in one year than ever before. We were just blown away because people wanted to take care of their family and making sure they have food on their table is one of the most important things. So the farm to table is just exploding and people are wanting to get in and schedule livestock,” said Bubeck.
Bubeck said they want to get back to work as soon as they can and hopes they can announce some plans in the near future to keep their customers informed.