Made in Michigan: Koegel's Meats celebrates 100 years

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FLINT (WJRT) - (02/10/16) - It's a fourth generation, family-owned business, pumping out hot dogs in a frenetic frenzy, right off Bristol Road in Flint.

"We're loading 600 frankfurters a minute. In the summertime, we're loading 1,800 frankfurters a minute. When I see it happen, it always amazes me," said Koegel's President John Koegel.

Here's something amazing. Koegel's Meats is celebrating it's one-hundredth anniversary.

"I think of nostalgia, I think of a lot of good hard work over the years, a lot of people that make this happen," Koegel said.

Koegel's was founded by Albert Koegel in 1916, in a simple butcher shop on Kearsley Street.

"He came from Germany through an apprenticeship program and learned the meat business, settled in Flint because the auto industry was going to boom. Then he built his first plant on Stevens Street, which sits by the river," said Koegel said.

Koegel's Meats moved into its current home in 1972, a 100,000 square foot plant next to Bishop Airport.

"I think he'd be floored with the way the walls are, the ceilings, the equipment. It's all stainless steel. There's no rust," Koegel said.

While Albert Koegel's original recipes have pretty much remained in tact, the process has definitely changed. Just ask John, his grandson.

"When I was younger and worked back here, we stuffed everything by hand. Put the casing on, opened up the stuffing horn, now it's all done by machine," he said.

That seasoned scent filling the plant comes from 64 products, made up from 32 different recipes - everything from traditional hot dogs, to bologna, brats, chicken frankfurters and polish sausage.

"We grind it, we chop it, we season it, we stuff it into various forms, we smoke it, cool it and then package it," Koegel said.

In 2015, Koegel's shipped out close to 12,000,000 hot dogs.

"That's a lot and I'd love to do a lot more. It's not too insane, and again, we're a small player. That doesn't include our skinless franks, our skinless polish or something like that," Koegel said.

Koegel products can be found in grocery stores throughout Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. In recent years, online sales have taken it nationwide, to places as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, with a loyal customer base made up of former residents of the Mitten.

"'You know, I moved away from Michigan, I order it on occasion because I've got to have it. I can't live without it.' You never get tired of hearing that," Koegel said.

While many Koegel's customers have relocated over the years, it's their loyal following that's helped the brand survive and thrive during hard economic times. It's also what has allowed Koegel's to continue its commitment to the Flint area.

"We would never move. We have roots here in the community. We're proud to be in Michigan," Koegel said.

That community has provided a steady workforce of 100 or so people.

"We've had some parents and kids move in, especially in our sales force. In the summertime, we've had some kids come in and help out, but yeah, we've had some people here 35 or 40 years," Koegel said.

If Koegel has his way, Koegel's Meats will still be going strong and making hot dogs for decades to come.

"I'm good for another 25 or 30 probably and then if someone wants to take it on after that, we'll see, but it would be wonderful to be another 100 years. Are my kids hot dog makers ready to go? I hope so. We'll see," Koegel said.

For more information on Koegel's one-hundredth anniversary, click the link in the 'Related Links' section of this story.



 
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