ROWENA, S.D. (KELO) — When packing plants shut down during the pandemic, many farmers turned to local butcher shops to process their livestock, creating some longer wait times. To help with that demand, a new butcher shop opened near Rowena last year.

On the South Dakota-Iowa state line just east of Sioux Falls, you’ll find Borderline Butchering, a new butcher shop opened by Ron Heller of Brandon.

Heller is a 20-year air force veteran but grew up on a farm and has always been an avid hunter and fisherman.

“I started (butchering) a lot of deer and other things probably most of my life. Probably within the last 3-5 years really started getting into the livestock. Doing hogs and then into the beef,” Heller said.

Opening a butcher shop is something Heller had in mind for quite a while, and Borderline Butchering opened its doors in November of 2021.

“We were trying to open a lot sooner but just a lot of stuff to do to get started and so about 7 months now,” Heller said.

To build the business, Heller had to find land first.

“We had wrote letters to some of the farmers in the area and Dick Funke reached out and contacted me,” Heller said.

“And being a fellow veteran, I thought, ‘You know what. I think I can work with this guy. He seems like a good guy,’ so we drove around the area and he found this little chunk of land and said, ‘I’d really like to locate right here Dick. Could you help me out?'” beef producer Dick Funke said.

The Funkes sold Heller a few acres of land about a mile south of their cattle farm near Rowena, saying everyone benefits from more local butchers.

“The producer benefits, the butcher shop benefits and the customer benefits from lower prices,” Dick Funke said.

Joe Funke works this cattle operation with his dad.

“We reach out and book a date with Ron, and then basically that consumer can book a quarter to a half cow, quarter cow, whole cow if they want, and then they kind of pay us and then pay Ron individually. And that’s how it works, and it is basically that farm-to-table approach,” Joe Funke said.

With many butcher shops backed up with appointments, Dick Funke says it was up to a two-year wait get an animal butchered.

“We’ve reduced that time probably, to what, three months,” he said.

But after less than a year in business, Heller’s schedule is already filling up.

“We’re booked almost to the end of ’22,” Heller said. “We’re looking at increasing our production. Once we are able to increase our production, the books will open up again, so we’re hoping to be able to do about twice what we’re doing now.”

Right now, Heller’s focus is mainly on hogs and beef, even though he sees interest from hunters.

“A lot of people come to the door or even make a phone call and ask us if we can do wild game, and we’re looking to possibly do that. We just have to see where we’re sitting this fall around hunting season,” Heller said.

Heller says he’s busy enough the way it is.

“Everything gets cut up on the saw and then put on the tables and our workers will cut the beef up and we’ll package it,” he said.

From there, it goes to the freezer…

“It’s usually about minus 10 in here,” Heller said.

…and then to the smoking room.

“We got a couple smokers here that we run, so we can get quite a bit of product in there,” Heller said.

Whether it’s jerky, steak, brats, or patties, it all takes a lot of time and energy before it’s ready for customers.

“It’s the quality. It’s fantastic. I think that the fact that he’s able to get meat processed. He can package exactly how you want it. Cut, however, you want it. He has the ability to smoke, dry age. It’s the whole deal,” customer Chris Deberg said.

“Ron just does an excellent job. And he’ll cut it the way you want it, not the way they do it. We need more small businesses,” Dick Funke said.

Even though starting his own butcher shop has been a lot of work, Heller is excited about the future.

Schmidt: “What are you looking forward to most going forward?”

Heller: “Maybe taking a break and not working weekends, but no, I look forward to, my biggest thing that I enjoy about this business is probably the customers. The people that come through the door. Meeting a lot of the farmers in the local areas and just some great people that come through here. Great customers.”

Heller also has interest in brewing beer, so he would like to add that to his business in future as well.