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Bill Bietz, owner of Blue Bird Locker in Delmont, uses a saw to cut through a side of beef. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Customers are the 'backbone' of Blue Bird Locker

DELMONT, S.D. — Bill Bietz prides himself and his business on customer service.

For 49 years, Bietz has worked at Blue Bird Locker in Delmont. And for more than a decade, he's been the owner of the butcher shop, and he said it's the customers and his employees who have made the business successful.

"It's been a super business. The customers have been outstanding. They're the backbone of what we do," said Bietz, a 1989 Delmont High School graduate and now-Parkston resident. "Seeing them come in with a smile on their face and meeting them, talking with them and seeing how they're doing in terms of the production of their farm life is going. Just being able to custom cut whatever they need."

The locker, which employs 10 to 12 full- and part-time employees, has always been a family-owned business.

Bietz purchased the shop from his father Ervin, who was looking to retire. And although Ervin may now be retired, that doesn't keep him from continuing to help out at the shop.

"He's 75, still comes in three hours a day or four hours a day in the morning early and kind of puts things together. He's got his routine. We've been working together quite awhile," Bietz said.

Particularly known for its German sausage sold in 15 area grocery stores, Blue Bird Locker has handled a variety of animals throughout the years, including buffalo. But it usually sticks to cattle, hogs and sheep.

"We kind of limit to those three items. With the inspection program, it just gets very hard to continue to do what you used to do 20 years ago," Bietz said, adding that it helps keep a fresh inventory fully supplied at the locker.

The locker slaughters on Tuesdays and Fridays, handling about 15 to 20 head of cattle and hogs each week. Bietz said the locker is typically booked out two to three months year round.

"We schedule them like you would schedule a visit to the dentist. Obviously, our fall season is busier than the summer," Bietz said, noting he has customers who come from Nebraska and Iowa, and as far west as Bonesteel.

Being able to interact and serve his customers is the best part of the business for Bietz.

"We want to make an imprint on the town here. I love what I do. It's making products, people bring in their own stuff. We feel we do a very good job at processing their animals and returning it back to them how they want it."