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Rother Meats to close its doors after 52 years

Brothers Wayne, left, and Roger Rother stand in the front room of their deer processing business. This will be their last year of operations.

Roger and Wayne Rother have been processing meat for 52 years. They started in 1958, when their parents bought a little processing shop along the outskirts of Hastings.

"For my dad, this was a good fit," Roger said, explaining that his family had lived on a farm before buying the business.

It proved to be a successful business. The family doubled the size of the building to accommodate all their customers. They worked 12 months out of the year, processing beef, pork and deer.

In 1958, the building was located right along the edge of the city, where the land was still mostly devoted to agriculture. Today it's still in the same location, 1004 W. Third St., but city growth has put it in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

That hasn't been any problem for the Rother brothers. In all their years working there, not once have they received a complaint from their neighbors, they said.

Roger and Wayne both put in a few years in the service, Wayne said, but other than that, working at Rother Meats had been their only job. And since they started in their teens - Roger was 15 and Wayne 12 when their parents bought the business - they've kept an impeccable safety record.

"We got through injury-free," at least without any serious injuries, anyway, Wayne said.

Five or six years ago, Rother Meats started to slow down. They stopped processing everything except deer, and they cut their business season to just a few months during deer hunting season. Since then, they've been open from the first week of November into mid-January.

"We wanted to slow down," Roger said.

They process 250 to 300 deer each season, they said, which is down from previous years, when they would handle 500 deer. Lower deer populations and competition from other meat processors has affected the numbers, they said.

This year, the business will close its doors for good at the end of the season. Age is playing a sizable role in the decision.

"Everything's getting heavier," Roger said.

Their customers tell them they can't close, Roger said. That loyalty has been one of the best perks of business. Both Roger and Wayne say they'll miss the people more than anything.

"The thing that I'm going to miss the most is the customers," Wayne said. "...We've got three generations of customers."

Some of those people have been bringing their meat animals to the Rothers for 40 years.

"We had people come in with kids who are now our customers," Roger said.

Because they have such great loyalty, they've developed friendships with many of their customers.

"Those are the memories that would be my favorite," Roger said. "...just being with the people."

Once they finish up this season, both Roger and Wayne plan to settle into retirement. Roger said he has a place in Arizona and he's considering relocating there. Wayne said he has a cabin to go to, and a pastime to keep himself busy.

"I might take up a little golf," he said.

As they prepare to close their doors one last time in January, Wayne and Roger are thankful for the people who have kept them in business for more than 50 years.

"(We want to) thank the customers for years of loyalty," Roger said. "Without them, we wouldn't be here."