Premium Sausage all about community and quality
By Tim Kalinowski
As you come into Premium Sausage based in the small community of Seven Persons, two things immediately strike you: The delicious smell of smoked meat hanging tantalizingly in the air, and the brightness and openness of the interior retail space. There is an old fashioned element to the place. It is in the details all around, heritage items from local history on shelf tops, the long counters and glassed in displays of hanging meat. Even in Premium Sausage’s motto there is a strong nod to that purposeful sense of history. “Quick, convenient food,” it states. “Old fashioned flavour.”
Everything about Premium Sausage hearkens back to an earlier and simpler time when family-run businesses were the cornerstones of communities. In fact, Premium Sausage still is that for its home community.
“We bought the business from Ralph Erb in 2009, and we just wanted to maintain and do a really good job with what was done here,” explains co-owner Mark Penner, who runs the business with his wife Debra. “(It’s) a point of pride we have been able to maintain a business here in our community. When Ralph opened up in 1990 there hadn’t been a (store front) family business here in 15 years. We brought a new business in, and now there are two or three businesses here in town. It’s kind of nice to know Premium Sausage has been sparking some of that activity, and helping to make this a place where people want to come and live.”
Premium Sausage also tries to employ locally whenever possible, providing jobs for people in their own home community who might otherwise have to leave to find work in larger centres elsewhere.
“Pretty much everybody who works for us is right within a small radius of the business,” Penner says. “We are grateful to have a great local staff. It’s awesome.”
But Premium Sausage isn’t just another local business, it is a huge economic and tourist draw thanks to the quality of its products and the presentation of its retail space. If you drive by Seven Persons today you will notice a miniature grain elevator unlike any other on the prairies: A relatively new build made up of modern materials. Premium Sausage’s exterior has become the signpost for the entire community.
“They took out our Seven Persons elevator over a decade ago, and we put it back,” says Penner with a mischievous smile. “It’s not as big, but it’s still a community landmark.”
Besides acting as tourist centre by default for the region, Premium Sausage now also acts as the general store for the community— and its post office, and its meeting centre as well.
“We try to look after our own community … as much as we can,” says Penner. “Our backgrounds being community-minded, that’s the way we were raised; and it makes a big difference.”
But the core of what makes Premium Sausage a success is its sausage, and the business has never lost sight of that.
“We make a good, high quality, farmer-style sausage, and that’s our bread and butter,” states Penner. “When customers come in the atmosphere is very inviting. We have a large retail space, and they can come in and have a look around at all we have to offer. And when they come in the door, they get that wonderful smoked meat smell.
“Smoked meat is a big deal these past few years,” he adds. “We do our own bacon here. We do our own sausage here, and we do our own hams here. The sausage we make has been a recipe inside the company since 1990; so we use raw spice and make our own mixes. All of our farmer-style smoked sausage is a gluten free product, and always has been. We have never used fillers in our core products. It’s just all meat.”
Since taking over the business, the Penners have also made a concerted effort to expand their product lines slowly to meet peoples’ changing tastes and needs without changing that all-important core. They have also added more locally-sourced products like knoephla, baked buns and specialty mustards to supplement their own in house smoked meat offerings.
“There has been a big push right from 1990 if there was something made in Alberta, we were going to provide an outlet for it,” confirms Penner. “We try as much as we can, when we find a high-quality product which is made here in southern Alberta, to bring it in if it is complimentary to our own products.”
Commitment to community, locally made and sourced, high-quality meat products, and a respect for tradition— these are the not-so-secret ingredients which have made Premium Sausage a success in southeastern Alberta for almost 30 years.
“Quality assurance is a big deal for us,” states Penner. “We have always had that model right from the very beginning. If you do the product right people will tell their friends, and it rolls from there.”