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Meat the Family
Now in its hundredth year, Schwab Meat Company has a family history that goes back five generations and a fiercely loyal customer base.
By Nathan Gunter
Published May/June 2012
For many, the aroma of a hot dog, the snap of the casing, and the smoky flavor spark recollections of sneakers squeaking along a gym floor, backyard cookouts with the family, or visits to the state fair. For the Schwab family of Oklahoma City, owners of Schwab Meat Company, hot dogs are a reminder of five generations of family history and pride in hard work.
An immigrant from western Germany, George Peter Schwab landed at Ellis Island in July 1890 carrying several family sausage recipes from the country he left behind. He established Schwab Meat Company in 1912, and it has been located in the same building near downtown Oklahoma City since 1920. Today, George’s great-grandsons Larry and Scott serve as president and CEO, respectively, after working their way up the ladder of the family business.
“When I was twelve years old, I was down here washing floors,” says Larry. “In high school, my brother and I would come to work at four in the morning. We’d cook hot dogs or do whatever needed to be done, and my dad took us to school at eight. Then he’d pick us up at three o’clock, bring us back down here, and we’d finish at eight washing floors.”
Through four generations of Schwab owners, the recipes have remained the same. Schwab’s famous hot links in distinctive red casings have earned a place of honor in the Oklahoma palate, and Schwab’s dogs are now the official hot dog of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Oklahoma City Barons, and Oklahoma State University. Customers appreciate the consistently high caliber of Schwab’s products and service.
“The Schwabs have been very fortunate that their family works in the business together, and they’ve been able to maintain the highest quality,” says Rick Haynes, CEO of Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler, where Schwab hot dogs and chili have been served since the first Johnnie’s restaurant opened in Oklahoma City in 1971.
Schwab has a connection with its clientele that goes beyond business. Some of its customers have been loyal throughout the company’s history.
“Our family’s relationship goes back almost to the very beginning,” says Bill Kamp, owner of Bill Kamp’s Meat Market in Oklahoma City. “Our original location was established in 1910 and Schwab’s shortly after that, and we’ve been carrying their products since day one.”
This spirit of closeness also exists within the company and has contributed to its ongoing success. In the past eight years, sales have jumped from $6 million to almost $15 million per year, and the fifth generation of Schwabs is preparing to take over. Larry and Scott’s children already work in sales, marketing, advertising, and production for Schwab’s.
“A lot of family companies don’t make it because that love for the product and the work is lost,” says Larry. “But these kids are enjoying it as much as we did.”
Larry says he and his brother have discussed retiring, but it is unlikely that either of them will soon. Their reputation as an Oklahoma favorite is secure, their great-grandfather’s legacy safe. Page
Get There: Schwab products can be purchased in almost a thousand stores, including Oklahoma-based retailers Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores, Crest Foods, Buy for Less, and Homeland. Schwab Meat Company is located at 111 Linwood Boulevard in Oklahoma City. (405) 235-2376 or schwabmeat.com.