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Ownership of Oella butcher shop changes

Michael Treuth, left, the previous owner of J.W. Treuth & Sons, stands with new owners Jason Trippett, of Severna Park, and Mike Trippet, of Hagerstown at the meat packing company in Oella.
Michael Treuth, left, the previous owner of J.W. Treuth & Sons, stands with new owners Jason Trippett, of Severna Park, and Mike Trippet, of Hagerstown at the meat packing company in Oella. (Photo by Matt Hazlett, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

J.W. Treuth & Sons, a wholesale butcher company that sits on 20 acres of land in Oella, is now under the ownership of two young entrepreneurs.

Jason, 38, and Michael Trippett, 43, purchased Hoffman's Quality Meats, a family business since 1923 in Hagerstown and kept that family-run operation the same. They expect to continue the Treuth tradition, Jason Trippett said.

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"Our intention is to come in here and continue the same tradition as Treuth had here for more than 100 years," said Jason Trippett, a Severna Park resident who grew up in Anne Arundel County.

The iconic meat packing company, where 100 cattle are slaughtered each day, is tucked away on Oella Avenue.

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The $40 million a year operation was sold to the Trippett brothers last month for an undisclosed amount.

It was sold by Michael Treuth, 56, the youngest of three sons who ran the business for years. He is the third — or possibly fourth — generation of his family to work in the butcher business, he said.

"My oldest brother Vernon is deceased, my next oldest brother John is retired, and that just left one of us, and it's pretty difficult for one of us to continue," said Treuth, who resides in Ellicott City.

Treuth said his first job with the family business came when he was 15 and involved setting up corrugated boxes at night. He learned the business from the ground up, working various jobs including on "the kill floor" and as part of the "clean up crew," Treuth said.

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He said he doesn't know the exact year or how the business was established, but does recall that his father used to deliver the meat on a horse and wagon before the family owned trucks. The family owned a store on Frederick Road in Catonsville in the 1920s, Treuth said.

Treuth will continue managing the company, "for as long as they want me and I expect that will be a decent amount of time," he said, seated at a desk across from his new boss.

"When you look around, you don't see meat processing plants on every corner — there's only a few left and what's left in his head, is what's left in his head," Jason Trippett said. "There is not a lot of knowledge regarding meat, regarding meat processing and how to do it correctly."

The Trippett brothers bought their first company, Hoffman's Quality Meats four years ago. The company sells cooked natural and organic meat products and, like Treuth's, was a well-established, family-owned business.

Both companies process meat. Hoffman's sells USDA certified natural and organic products and cattle is purchased locally through a cooperative.

Hoffman's is a smaller operation, however, at $10 million a year in comparison to the $40 million at Treuth's.

"It's a different financial move — but the process is similar," Trippett said, adding, "It's a jump."

"We don't do the volume that they do here [at Treuth's] so it's not necessary to ship cattle in from other places," Trippett said.

The meat at Treuth's comes from Amish farms in Pennsylvania, Treuth said.

It is not USDA certified natural or organic, Trippett said.

Hoffman's sells cooked meat products which are processed on site, while Treuth's butchers meat and sells it "primarily in carcass form," according to the J.W. Treuth & Sons website.

Treuth's is also one of the largest distributors of kosher meat in the northeast, according to the company's website. That aspect of the business accounts for 40 percent of its annual profits, Treuth said.

Kosher food is determined by a set of Biblical laws governing which foods Jewish people can eat and how that food is prepared, according to OK Kosher Certification. In order for meat to be kosher, a rabbi must be oversee the animal's death so that it is killed in the proper manner.

Treuth said the company was approached by a Rabbinical council in the 1970s and asked to supply kosher meat to the Jewish Orthodox community.

"There is no quality difference between kosher and non-kosher," Treuth said.

The company's retail store sells steak and other meat that has been processed on-site, along with other meats like turkey, lamb, veal and seafood purchased from other companies like Boar's Head and Hoffman's.

Retail sales amount to 3 percent, or $1.2 million, of the company's annual sales, Treuth said.

"Our business model is such that we try to find an established business that has been run well and increase and expand on processes that are already in place," Trippett said.

The brothers will continue to seek out well-established businesses that sell a high-end, high-quality products and make them more profitable, Trippett said.

"Start-ups have a difficult time getting off the ground because they don't have the processes in place yet," Trippett said.

Trippett has a background in the manufacturing industry as a turnaround management consultant and his brother, Michael, worked in sales and finance, he said.

Entrepreneurship runs in the family — their parents, whom they often consult for advice — owned a day care operation.

The brothers plan to expand the business and aren't sure what their next business move will be.

"We're young, we're entrepreneurs and we have a lot of energy," Trippett said.

For those in the tight-knit community concerned about changes being made to the landmark business, there is no reason for worry, Trippett said.

"Nothing is going to change with the history of this area," he said. "Treuth's will remain the same."

Curtis Ordakowski, 43, who lives nearby, said he was happy to hear the community landmark will continue as a business.

"I would rather see it stay a business than turn into a bunch of houses," said the Catonsville native.

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