By Caroline Cummings

This story was originally published on April 9, 2021

ELK RIVER, Minn. (WCCO) — After five decades as a Main Street mainstay, the town of Elk River is saying goodbye to a beloved family-owned meat market.

Elk River Meats is closing for good next month. Owners Bob and Denise Robeck are retiring and will open for the last time May 1 — 50 years to the day the Robeck family purchased the storefront.

WCCO’s viewers named the butcher shop the best place for beef sticks — known to customers as “Happy Sticks” — in Minnesota in 2017, so it’s no surprise that locals said they are sad to see it go.

“I’m sad. I think it’s going to be a big loss to the community,” said Paula Hofer, who said she has been shopping at Elk River Meats for 20 years. “I’ve got a little of the month left to make sure I’m stocked up.”

It’s bittersweet for the Robecks, too. They say the decision wasn’t easy, but they are looking forward to retirement to spend more time with family, fix up their house and go on a vacation.

“We have to work on our house, we’ve let that lapse,” Bob joked. “This place has taken all of my time.”

But working 63 hours a week, including holidays like Christmas — the busiest time of year — has been worthwhile, he said, because of the customers, many of whom have made it a family affair.

“We’ve got three generations of different families that have come in here,” Denise said. “It’s fun to joke with them and see them every week.”

Long after the last Happy Stick is sold, the couple says there will still be so much worth smiling about, reflecting lifetime’s worth of work.

“Our customers are great, and we will miss that,” Denise said.

Caroline Cummings