by Bob Zahler
Before the January meeting of the St. Michael Historical Society, Joe Dehmer, longtime owner of Dehmer’s Meat Market and cofounder of J & B Meats, spoke to a room of engrossed listeners on the history of the family business.
Dehmer explained how his father, Oscar, started as an apprentice around 1916 in the meat market of Gotlieb Wachter who also owned the Corner Bar. By the mid-1920s Oscar Dehmer was the sole proprietor of Dehmer’s Meats in St. Michael and eventually owned other meat markets in Osseo, Monticello, and Hanover.
Joe relayed how in the early days most butchering was done on site at farms. Cuts of meat and sausages were then kept in coolers in the meat market that were chilled with ice blocks harvested each winter and stored in an ice house between the meat market and the Corner Bar.
After World War II Oscar built a new meat market, adjacent to the old one. It was this shop that Joe and his wife Patty took over in 1969. Joe and Patty gambled on the future and started building the current meat market in 1976.
Joe said that there were some stressful years after the expansion but that the gamble eventually paid off, and now he is very happy that son Tony and his wife Amy are successfully continuing the family business.
What have been the biggest changes? While Dehmer’s ring bologna and Country Sausage continue to be made following century-old family recipes, there are now many more varieties available. The government health regulations have also changed dramatically since the days of sawdust-covered floors, but the quality of fresh-cut meats and mouth-watering sausages continues.