When Rick and Cheryl Nikkel purchased Sully Locker and Market from Jared and Stacey Nikkel on Apr. 30, neither party could have predicted the transfer of ownership and duties would happen amidst a global pandemic. What was intended to be a gradual transition over several months became a slightly stressful time as both the new and former owners not only dealt with a major business transfer, but also an influx of new customers due to coronavirus-driven changes within the meat processing industry.
Starting in mid-March, just before COVID-19 became part of daily conversation and drastically impacted day-to-day operations, Cheryl was learning the ropes of Stacey’s position while Rick and Cheryl’s son, Josh, was taking steps to take over Jared’s position. The transition was going well, and Jared and Stacey, owners of Sully Locker and Market since 2012, were well on their way of transitioning out of the meat-processing business. Then, the coronavirus outbreak fueled sweeping stay-at-home orders, shutdowns, and a significant time of uncertainty across America.
“We began the process of selling before the pandemic became an issue,” said Stacey. However, just as both Nikkel families were actively working toward the smooth transfer of positions and responsibilities, COVID-19 was thrown into the mix. “The biggest obstacle so far has been dealing with the fallout of the virus. It has been good for business, but stressful for a transition,” said Stacey.
Sully Locker and Market was never ordered to shut down operations as it is considered essential infrastructure. Their duties continued, albeit with precautionary measures and procedures in place to ensure employee and customer safety. The uptick in business came when coronavirus-driven problems temporarily shut down meat-packing plants around the country and consumers began to look for alternative places to buy and process meat. Due to increased demand, Sully Locker and Market now has a full butchering schedule through May of 2021. It’s great for business however just a little daunting considering the significant changes that go along with the sale and transfer of a business.
“Fortunately, the business was affected positively as we saw an influx of new customers from larger towns and cities. The idea that there might be a meat shortage coupled with the closure of large processors created a vacuum for small processors to fill,” said Stacey. “At this point, keeping up with day-to-day activity and orders has been the biggest challenge while trying to teach.”
Rick, Cheryl, and Josh have had to hit the ground running at full speed, and together they are managing daily operations. Jared and Stacey continue to play big roles in the business and may stay on longer than anticipated. Originally, the couple planned to stay on for up to six months after the business sale, if needed. However, given the uncertainty of the virus and Sully Locker and Market’s full schedule, those plans are up in the air. Jared and Stacey’s future post-locker ownership plans are also still in the works at this point.
One thing that is very clear is the commitment of all parties towards Sully Locker and Market’s customers. Both Nikkel families and their employees – all whom will stay in their current positions – have gone above and beyond to ensure the same great product and service customers have learned to expect is delivered in this time of a global pandemic and uncertainty. They also look ahead to the future and envision the influx of new business becoming the new norm.
“My hope is that because of the failure of large plants, people will realize what a huge benefit local producers and processors are to their communities,” said Stacey.