Familiar owners take over Eastman Locker

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Kevin and Jane Schaaf (right) sold the Eastman Locker to Grant and Nikki Stluka and family. Both are pictured here on the day the sale closed at Adams Auction & Real Estate.

The age of the Eastman Locker was not known by either owners, though there’s a neat picture of it inside the store from back in 1912 when it was a general store.

The J.F. Pier General Store, now known as Eastman Locker, is pictured here in 1912.

By Correne Martin

After 13 and a half years of ownership under Kevin and Jane Schaaf, the Eastman Locker was sold to Grant and Nikki Stluka, who took over Dec. 31.

“This is big news for a small town,” Jane noted. 

The deal closed through Adams Auction & Real Estate on New Year’s Eve, and as soon as 2019 started, the Stlukas were in the meat locker plant, ready for business as usual. The same employees will remain in Brian Cipra, Matt Lorenz, Tim Sprosty and Roy Kramer, and the hours, services and products are expected to be much the same. 

Grant has first-hand experience working at the Eastman Locker, having started as a 15-year-old there, helping with slaughter alongside some other high schoolers. Then, 30-plus year butcher Gaylord Kramer owned the business at 107 N. Main St. Later, when Kevin Schaaf took over, Grant was employed a couple years full-time. 

Both Kevin and now Grant had learned how to cut meat when they were teenagers. Grant always harvested his own deer and participated in meat judging while in high school, making it to third at state.

Kevin started at Prairie du Chien’s Dick’s Supermarket, in the meat department, when he was 19. He thought he was going to work at the grocery store until he retired, but in 2005, he bought the locker plant upon looking for a change. He left the supermarket to run his own business, and Cipra, who also worked at Dick’s, went with him.

“The sausage making was all new to me. But Brian and I knew how to cut meat,” Kevin said. 

Over the years, business increased for the Schaafs. “It amazed me from the beginning that there was so much need for that kind of business,” he stated, believing now that there will “always be a need for it.”

He especially became busier when the Gays Mills locker closed a few years back. 

“Eastman took us in, the whole county really,” Kevin said. “We had a lot of Grant County customers too.”

In addition to the farmers and hunters who wanted their animals cut up, he picked up a number of wholesale accounts at places like BP North, Quality Beverage and Leisure Time in Prairie du Chien. 

Kevin particularly enjoyed Hog Roast time and the Fourth of July, Eastman’s two largest community events. “We had a lot of fun when the firemen came and stuffed and rolled the hogs,” he said, “and all the brats we made! I’m really thankful to the community for the patronage. I really learned how to run a business.”

The Eastman Locker was for sale for about two years prior to this recent transition. “I’m glad it worked out this way,” Kevin said, feeling that the Stlukas will be successful.

“We’re already so dang busy,” Grant said.

The new owners intend to keep all the bookings made under the Schaafs, which span for the next several months. They will also continue buying from local farmers. 

“So, pretty much everything you buy through here is from here,” Grant stated.

He shared that he’s looking at installing another cooler, along with some new lighting and new cases and doing a few other minor updates and maintenance in the near future. They’ve also added an LLC to the business name. 

The Stlukas, who live in Ferryville, have talked with numerous merchants in that community about creating wholesale accounts with them, and would like to discuss the same with some Eastman and other area businesses as well. 

Grant said, furthermore, he has ideas for product additions down the road and he’d like to use the smoker a lot more. 

The first day under the Stlukas’ ownership, they started a Facebook page—Eastman Locker LLC—and had 300 people almost instantly. They want to promote the locker’s products as much as they can.

Grant is a former logger and over-the-road welder. Nikki has a background in the medical field but currently stays home with the couple’s two young children.

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