May 27, 2021
Written By: Siandhara Bonnet, Rapid City Journal
Randy Gruenwald hates the word “no” when it comes to customer service.
The Dakota Butcher owner takes pride in his workers that provide service with a smile.
“Our customers don’t stand around in our business without somebody greeting them or finding out if they want something,” he said. “You get me in a bad mood when I see people not getting served right away or getting told no.”
Gruenwald hopes to find hardworking and good people to staff Dakota Butcher’s first West River location in Rapid City for its opening in June.
Randy and his wife Karen will open the 12,000-square-foot building on the corner of East North Street and Anamosa Street after renovations are complete in June. Dakota Butcher is a daily-owned South Dakota company with a full-service meat locker, fresh and smoked products, deli and bakery.
Randy said the new location will have the largest variety of things they do in the store but will also function as the company’s distribution center for the western side of the state.
Dakota Butcher has five other locations in Clark, Watertown and Madison.
The Rapid City location will include the full-service locker, deli, bakery items, liquor store and beer cave, and sitting area for people to eat any of the company’s made-from-scratch meals.
Karen said they sell sandwiches, pulled pork, ribs, smoked chicken, pizzas, ready to go chislic seasoning, jalapeno poppers, stuffed mushrooms, tiger meat, jerky and hot dogs, to name a few.
Randy said the plan is to open other stores in West River and provide Dakota Butcher products in convenience stores throughout communities like Hills City and Keystone.
He said they're also considering opening up their Clark-based slaughterhouse to serve West River ranchers, although details haven't been finalized.
The Gruenwalds their first location in Clark in 2009 after the local meat locker closed in 2007.
“(Karen) said to me and her exact works were, and she’ll deny this, but her exact words were, ‘we should try that, Randy,’ because she knew that we could succeed,” Randy said.
Throughout college, Randy worked at Kessler’s Grocery in Aberdeen and continued with Nash Finch after he graduated. After living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for about three years, the Gruenwalds decided it was time to move back home to be closer to family. Randy picked up a banking job in 1998 and became one of the top lenders for Dacotah Bank while Karen finished her nursing degree.
In 2009, Randy tried to sell the old meat locker location with no success, but knew it was worth a try.
“I thought well, if we got it going then we could sell it and show people (it’s possible),” Randy said.
“That didn’t happen,” Karen said.
Karen left nursing and joined the ownership and management front for the store. Randy worked with the bank and Dakota Butcher for about five years until he left banking to pursue the shop full time.
“It was a little too much for me to do both,” he said. “We had good managers in the meantime that could run it without me, but we decided that our kids were out of school, the pressure was off as an income provider because our kids graduated for the most part. We just really felt that we could do better with the business if I was there full-time helping manage it.”
Soon after a local liquor store owner moved into the facility and sold the Gruenwalds the liquor license, which started the combination meat and liquor store for Dakota Butcher.
Randy and Karen’s son Aaron now runs the liquor component in the East River locations.
In 2015, the Gruenwalds expanded the company to Watertown and now have a west location, eastside location with steakhouse and the North Shore Restaurant, and opened a Madison location in 2019.
Randy was named as SBA Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year in 2020 during SBA Small Business Week.
Randy said he’s thankful for his experience as a banker and learned a lot from his customers about how to run his own business. He said over time, the lesson that sticks with them is how to manage people, which is a culture the Gruenwalds try to teach their employees.
“Our success wholly, solely depends on our people that we have working,” Randy said. “Karen and I cannot do it. We cannot be at every store, we can’t do it, so we teach the culture of God, family then work.”