HANCOCK - The business that started in Richard Vollwerth's basement in 1915 is still providing the Upper Peninsula with high-quality foods.
Vollwerth's & Co. sells a wide variety of meats, including ring bologna, natural-casing wieners and large bologna for sandwiches, selling 2 million pounds of sausage per year.
It also makes blood sausage and potato sausage, which are less common, but local favorites, said general managaer Jim Schaaf.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Jared Liimatta prepares cans shortly before they are filled with spaghetti sauce at the Vollwerth & Co. building in Hancock. About 1,200 cans are prepared in 20 minutes.
Vollwerth's also offers the spaghetti sauce and ravioli of the Baroni Co. of Calumet, which it purchased last fall.
Vollwerth's kept the Baroni's name, as well as the ingredients, bringing over the saucemaker.
"We have not made any changes to their recipes, their label. The only thing we changed was the inspecton number and the address it was manufactured at," Schaaf said. "It was important to us not to change anything in the recipe, because people like the product. We don't want to change anything."
The move gives Baroni's access to Vollwerth's distribution across two-thirds of the U.P., and reduces overhead and distribution costs.
Vollwerth's has about 35 year-round employees, which goes up to 40 in the summer months.
The family-owned company still has five of Richard Vollwerth's descendants working in the company.
Employees are loyal, Schaaf said. One salesman's been with the company for 62 years.
"It's not unusual for someone to come for a part-time job and stay for the rest of their life," he said.
Whenever they can, they use local products. They also have cooperative agreements with companies such as Jilbert Dairy of Marquette to use their products in gift boxes, and handle distribution for companies including Rudy's Spices of Hancock, Peterson's Fish Market in Quincy Township and Keweenaw Kitchens in Pelkie.
Schaaf hopes to continue serving customers in the local area, as well as growing the Baroni's product line across the U.P.
"We appreciate the local support that we get from the merchants," Schaaf said. "It's very important to us to have their support, and have our products in the store. We couldn't do it without them. And we look forward to the summer months - when the grilling season begins."
Garrett Neese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.