View Full Version : OKC based Schwab Meats to expand

07-26-2007, 08:55 AM
Schwab starts major expansion

By Sara Ganus

After almost 90 years in downtown Oklahoma City, Schwab and Co. Oklahoma's oldest meat company will begin construction Friday on the first phase of a $2 million expansion and renovation to its 55,000-square-foot facility.

Schwab and Co.'s first project is the 30-day installation process of two 600-square-foot smokehouses inside its facility, but that's only the beginning.

By 2008, the company plans to begin demolition of about six residential buildings on its surrounding property, which includes a block of NW 6, near Linwood Boulevard and North Klein Avenue.

In an estimated 18 months, the Schwab and Co. processing plant will total about 100,000 square feet almost double its current size to make room for a 35,000-square-foot "ready-to-eat, sanitized product area, additional loading docks, freezers and coolers, said Larry Schwab, president for Schwab and Co.

The processing plant is in the same location that Larry Schwab's great-grandfather, George Schwab, operated the meat company after immigrating from Germany in 1912. George Schwab moved the company, which he started in 1912, to 1111 Linwood Blvd. in 1920.

"We're just completely out of space, Larry Schwab said. "I'm having to go out and rent space right now because we don't have anywhere to put (our products).

Installing the smokehouses, which include pieces that weigh up to 8,000 pounds, won't be easy.

"We have to cut a giant hole in the roof and get cranes to lift these smokehouses down into the building, which is going to be quite a chore, he said.

Still, Larry Schwab the fourth generation to own the company said he is eager to install the smokehouses. During the Oklahoma State Fair and the holiday season the company's two busiest times of the year the facilities each hold between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds of meat.

For the past 16 years, Schwab and Co. has provided all the meat products for the Oklahoma State Fair, including the popular turkey legs, which outsell "all the other meat put together, he said.

In addition to the physical renovations, Schwab and Co. also increased its employment by about 15 percent to 60 employees in the last year. In the next six months, the company's work force will increase by another 25 percent, Larry Schwab said.

"The expansion is good for us, he added. "It's good for the future generations coming along.

Those future generations include his daughters, Emily Schwab-Nance, 29, and Lacey Schwab, 25, who represent the family's fifth generation. Both work at the company.

So what's causing all the recent growth?

Schwab and Co. decided to expand its focus to the regional and national markets, and as a result, the company experienced a 30 to 35 percent increase in sales in the past two years, said Nance-Schwab, who oversees sales from distribution and national retail chains.

"Before, we just stayed in our niche market, and really it's the institutional sales that are just growing out the door, she said.

Schwab and Co. now produces about 150 products for national, regional and local companies, including Eateries Inc., which includes Garfield's, Pepperoni Grill and Garcia's Mexican Restaurant; Braum's Ice Cream and Diary Stores; Sysco Foods; Ben E. Keith Co.; and Landry's Restaurants Inc.

This year, the company began regionally distributing hot links and 11 different types of hams to Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores year round, instead of just during the holidays.

About five years ago, Schwab and Co. also introduced a new label, El Cortez, which caters to the average consumer, unlike some of its other products.

Larry Schwab said what he attributes most to the company's growth is its dedication to quality that his great-grandfather, grandfather and father instilled in him.

That includes the recipes that Schwab's great-grandfather brought from Germany and the slow-cook process the company has used for the past 90 years.

While some companies have resorted to faster production methods, Schwab and Co. still spends 2 hours to make its hot dogs, 10 hours to smoke a turkey and 12 hours to cook a ham, Larry Schwab said.

"It's something that we've stuck with for four generations and I will insist if my family decides to continue on and if I retire ... to keep the traditions that we've kept for four generations now, he said. "The most important thing to me is taking care of the people of Oklahoma.
Larry Schwab, president of Schwab & Co. in Oklahoma City, is shown with a rack of hot dogs in the processing room earlier this week. BY PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND, The Oklahoman