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At Klein’s, it’s always smoked to perfection

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  • Article Image Alt Text
    Klein Smokehaus pitmaster and main butcher Gavin Waldeck shows off some prime steaks inside the business. Star photo by Keith E. Domke
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Klein Smokehaus pitmaster and main butcher Gavin Waldeck slices some prime steaks. Star photo by Keith E. Domke
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Klein Smokehaus pitmaster and main butcher Gavin Waldeck slices brisket for a sandwich. Star photo by Keith E. Domke
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    The front counter stores a wide selection of meats available for purchase.
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    A brisket plate features the meat, two sides, bread and pickles and onions upon request.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    The Klein Smokehaus “family.”

Claire and Barret Klein knew they had a good thing when they purchased Farmer’s Meat Market at 342 N. Main St. in 2007. The business is one of Boerne’s longest continuing operations and its smokehouse meats have been popular with people for decades, with proof being it has been named best barbecue in Boerne for 11 years in a row through The Star’s Best of the Best competition.

Now known as Klein Smokehaus, the establishment continues to satisfy customers by providing fresh, smoked meats with a deer processing business on the side.

“We’re really known for our barbecue and fresh meats,” Klein Merchandising Manager Valerie Mont said. “We sell our meat by the pound and also make sandwiches with side dishes for people to pick up and take with them.”

Information on the company’s website states that “The Hill Country of Central Texas gets its color from the abundant live oak trees, and the hardwood harvested from those trees gives our smoked meats a depth of aroma and flavor that is uniquely Texan.”

And, beginning later this month, the smokehouse will offer meat plates that come with two sides, bread and pickles and onions on request.

“We’re offering the plates because of demand,” Mont said. “People kept asking us, so we decided to do it.”

The top seller at Klein’s is brisket but chopped barbecue, chicken, smoked turkey, pulled pork and pork ribs also are offered. The chopped barbecue features a brisket and turkey mix. Sides include cole slaw, broccoli salad, potato salad and pinto beans. When the plates become available, macaroni and cheese and creamed corn will be offered.

Fresh sausage, bacon and other meats are packaged for purchase at the front counter.

“Everything is take out,” Mont said, adding the business also supplies meats to local restaurants to serve their patrons. “We prepare and supply.”

Klein Smokehaus started at its present location on July 4, 1950, by Larry and Doris Waldeck and served as a local grocery store called Red & White. Sometime in the late 1950s or early ‘60s, the name was changed to Piggly Wiggly as the market became part of a national franchise.

In 1968, Doris Waldeck died and the next year the business became known as Larry’s Supermarket. Throughout this period, the Waldeck children – Donna, Gordon and Gavin – worked with their parents at the business.

In 1985, Larry and Gavin formed a partnership and started Farmer’s Meat Market. Larry Waldeck died in 1992 and left the business to his children with Gavin being the primary operator.

“Barret, being from the Hill Country, always wanted to be his own owner,” Claire Klein said. “And the one thing that really enticed him about Larry’s was the Waldecks and how they made their products.”

So, after about 2½ to 3 years looking “for just the right place,” the Kleins purchased Larry’s and changed the name to what it is today.

“We knew we were coming in on good business terms to begin with,” Claire said. “It was already established and successful. We saw the potential and wanted to take an already good product and grow it.”

Claire was raised in the Midwest, but Barret was born and grew up in Fredericksburg. He has more than 20 years of experience in the meat industry having worked at IBP, Texas Meat Purveyors, Wright Brand Foods and Tyson, where he worked in different management positions.

Before relocating to the Hill Country, he was the general manager of the Tyson Foods bacon plant in Vernon. He graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor of science degree and did graduate work in meat science at Colorado State University.

“Purchasing this place brought us back here (to the Hill Country),” Claire said.

Claire said Barret is the meat man of the operation.

“He makes the meats, and the majority are smoked in-house,” she said. “Everything with our label on it is made here.”

Claire also said her husband likes to try new products. His latest is fermented sausage

About six full-time and five part-time employees work for the Kleins, including Gavin Waldeck, who is the pitmaster and main butcher.

On average, Mont said Klein’s sells about 350 pounds of brisket, its top meat, per month. In July, she said the business sold 680 sliced brisket sandwiches.

“We’re fortunate we’ve grown every year,” Claire said. “It’s mainly due to the growth in the area.”

Customers soon will be able to enjoy an expanded retail area that will feature more products, dry goods, cheeses, sauces, salsas and spices.

Klein Smokehaus is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, visit the store’s website at www.klinesmokehaus.com or call 830-249-8063.

Deer processing

Klein’s also offers deer processing, which Claire said gets “very hectic” during hunting season.

During peak times, the smokehouse may have 30 seasonal workers on a shift.

“The Waldecks started it in the ‘80s,” Claire said. “It’s like a separate business. We kept their customer base and continue to process year-round.”

She said they process more than 4,000 deer orders annually and can work on as many as 500 a week during peak season.

She said 15 or so deer per week can be processed during the offseason.

“The German settlers who fell in love with the Hill Country found venison to be the perfect meat for their lean, flavorful sausages and tasty smokes meats,” information on the company website states. “For today’s hunters, we carry on the art of deer processing with a reverence for tradition that ensures your harvest will be treated with the utmost care and attention.”