More than 120 years ago, it would not seem out of place to see the Groff brothers driving cattle down North Market Street toward the town square in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
John and Joseph K Groff owned a farm a few miles outside of Elizabethtown and when their butcher shop located in the first block of North Market Street needed beef, they would ride out and drive a few steer into town from their pastures. The brothers also used a large pond at the farm to cut ice in the winter for their meat locker downtown.
Simpler times to be sure, but even today, Groff's Meats is a family-run business.
Now in its fourth generation of the Groff family, the meat market and grocery store is operated by four children of the late Joseph G Groff. Joseph G Groff and his sister Helen took over the family business from their father Frank and their uncle Wilfred. Frank and Wilfred took over from John and Joseph K Groff around the turn of the century.
John and Joseph K Groff bought the business in 1875 from another butcher and moved into his storefront at 13 North Market Street. Nobody seems to know how long that original butcher operated his business at that location. Groff's Meats stayed in that storefront for about 115 years before moving into its present location at 33 North Market Street.
Before the move locals say on busy days the queue would stretch out onto the sidewalk. The new store provides a bright clean space with lots of room. It also allows the family to sell a few grocery items including hard-to-find items like speciality potato crisps and locally produced honey, horseradish and jams.
But this retail operation is only a small part of the business - the real money is made in the wholesale operation. Groff's supplies restaurants, stores, farmer's markets and public institutions like the local public school with meat products delivered in small refrigerated trucks.
Beef and pork are processed at a large facility behind the retail store. Among the items bearing the Groff's label are beef, hams, bacon, sausage, scraple1, and custom cuts and sides of beef. In the summer they also do a booming business in whole pigs for backyard 'pig roasts'2. And in the autumn, there is the nationally famous mincemeat.
The actual ingrediants of the mincemeat are a family secret, but it is known to be a combination of beef, apples, raisins, rum, sherry and secret spices. Every autumn extra workers are hired to prepare orders for this delicious treat which is shipped halfway across the USA.
Really, it's small wonder the business is such a vital part of downtown Elizabethtown.