When my husband and I moved to Wyoming in 2014, I knew I would miss family, friends, a town that had become home, Nebraska sunsets and Runza. But, I didn’t realize how much I would miss Nebraska beef.
I had grown up in Nebraska raising 4-H calves that would often wind up on our dinner plates. I had grown accustomed to quality beef, but it was when I met my husband that I was introduced to the best steak I had ever experienced. I never would have expected it to come from the tiny grocery store in his hometown of Hildreth. We tried to give Wyoming beef a chance, but it never made the cut. Instead, my in-laws would stock up on steak from Fritz’s Market and haul it to Wyoming for us.
And, we aren’t the only meat lovers who make this request of loved ones living near Fritz’s Market in Hildreth and Fritz’s Meat in Holdrege.
“We’ve had customers from as far away as San Francisco, California and Washington, D.C.,” said Matt Fritz. He is the fifth generation of the Fritz family to work in the business. “Some people sent our jerky to Okinawa, Japan. I know it gets sent over to Afghanistan quite a bit.”
Five Generations in the Business
The Fritz family has been in the grocery business for five generations. The business began with Fred Fritz, who opened a butcher store in Wilcox. Henry Fritz opened the grocery store in Hildreth, and his son, Justin, eventually took over. Justin’s sons, Doug and Cal, then took the reins of the business, but Doug wanted to expand the company.
“The grocery store in Hildreth was going good, but Doug wanted to do more exploring with just the meat side of it and kind of work on some different ideas he had for like making his own Polish sausage,” Matt said. “He just wanted to expand, and so he thought Holdrege would be a good market to get into.”
So, Doug started Fritz’s Meat in Holdrege in 1999. Photo 1547. Caption: Fritz’s Meat opened in Holdrege in 1999. It is located at 1304 4th Ave.
Matt Fritz is Doug’s son and is the fifth generation to work in the company, along with his brother, Jake Fritz. Carina Fritz is another member of the fifth generation who works alongside her father, Cal, at Fritz’s Market in Hildreth.
Cal continues to operate Fritz’s Market in Hildreth, while Doug runs Fritz’s Meat in Holdrege. Doug used to butcher meat in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but they now focus on retail. In a week, the store will go through 2,500 pounds of hamburger. Along with providing beef products, that staff at Fritz’s Meat make beef jerky, bacon, beef sticks, salami, summer sausage, Polish dogs, potato bologna and a variety of different sausages. They also slice their own deli meats and offer a section of chicken and seafood products.
“We try to focus more on providing people with very good, high quality meat compared to some of the prepackaged stuff that you can buy at grocery stores,” Matt said. “It definitely takes more time, but I think the product that you put out there is worth the time because it is a better quality product.”
Customers can purchase the meat varieties in both the Holdrege and Hildreth locations. While they no longer offer the option to purchase halves or quarters of beef, they do allow customers to select cuts of beef to put together in a package.
“It’s mainly they can set up their own meat, and we can put it together for them,” Matt said. “A lot of people just come in and shop just out of our counter as well.”
Fritz’s Meat also serves local restaurants, and they also have catering meat that is often served at funerals, graduations and weddings.
“We have a sliced au jus beef and a sliced pork,” Matt said. “We cook it and slice it, so they just have to heat it up and serve it.”
Small Town Grocery Store
With few shopping options in Hildreth, Fritz’s Market plays an important role in the small town.
“I kind of feel a little added pressure because grocery stores are one of those things that can be a backbone for a smaller community,” Matt said. “If you close it down, it can really hurt that community as well.”
Growing up in Hildreth, Matt originally wanted to get out of the family business. He attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney and earned a bachelor’s degree in business and finance. He returned to Fritz’s Meat after graduating in 2009 and began as a cashier and dishwasher. He worked his way up to doing the books and cutting meat.
“Right now, I enjoy the mix of everything,” Matt said. “I’m a numbers guy, so I enjoy doing the books, but you can’t do that all day.”
With customers traveling near and far, Matt credits their success to providing a high quality product for all to enjoy.
“Being a meat store — and just meat — you just have to be good, you have to be really good at what you do,” he said. “So we just kind of perfected our craft.”
For More Information:
1304 4th Ave., Holdrege
8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday
249 Commercial Ave., Hildreth
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday