Pitmaster Interviews

Interview: Prause Family of Prause Meat Market

by Daniel Vaughn · September 3, 2014
Prause Interview 05

Gary, Mark, Kathy, and Brian Prause

Owners: Prause Meat Market; Opened 1890’s

Age: Gary Prause (60), Brian Prause (59), Kathy Prause (55), Mark Prause, pitmaster (51)

Smoker: Wood-fired brick pit

Wood: Oak

Prause (pronounced Prowse-ey) Meat Market has been operating in La Grange for one hundred ten years. The family moved the market into its current building on the downtown square in 1953, and these days the fourth generation of the family keeps it going. It’s one of the few barbecue joint/meat markets in Texas where the meat market portion isn’t just for show.

The Prauses are getting older, and their children don’t have much interest in the business, so it’s been put up for sale. The current generation makes no bones about how hard the job is, and they’ve come to accept that selling the business off is in their best interests. When it does sell, it will be the end for one of the oldest family owned meat markets in Texas.

I sat down with all four of the current owners just after they’d closed up shop on a Thursday afternoon. We sat together at a picnic table in the small dining room in the back, and what transpired was more of a family conversation than an interview, but it’s worth following along with the various threads. What you’ll get is an unfiltered look at what it takes for this family to keep a legend from crumbling, even if their bodies do.

Daniel Vaughn: Prause Meat Market has been around a long time. How have things changed since you’ve been at the helm?

Gary Prause: We haven’t changed!

Mark Prause: That’s the thing about barbecue is that people have turned it into so much more than what it used to be. It used to be the old simple way and now they’ve added so many different things to it. You’ve got a different society out there today. Some people like sweet, some people like sour, and people like to try new things. People only knew one way a lot of years ago. We still do everything the old way. But we also have a meat market too.

GP: Back in the 60’s and 70’s, I’d say close to 85 – 90% of our barbecue had bone in it. Now you don’t have anything with bone in it. It’s all boneless.

Kathy Prause: How about the boneless pork rib, I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. People ask for that, too.

DV: They ask for a boneless pork rib? I guess you could put it on the plate and yank the bone out for them.

[Brian Prause sits down]

DV: Hi Brian. What is it that you do around here?

Brian Prause: All the s*** work.

MP: He does the butchering. He prepares the meat ready in the morning, does a lot of the boning, waits on customers. He does just a little bit of everything, and he does pretty well with all of it.

KP: They just killed today.

DV: So you guys have a slaughtering facility somewhere here in town?

BP: Out in the country on 609.

GP: We have some land out there that we own, and we have it on there.

DV: And so, is that where you get all the meat?

GP: We butcher all our cattle.

MP: We buy a lot of feedlot cattle. We have people that deliver them to us at our slaughterhouse and we end up killing them out there. We get the inspection out there. We used to kill a lot of hogs and that too, but we don’t do that anymore. We get boxed pork in. We’ve been here so long and there aren’t that many of us left, so we had to cut our hours back because everybody is worn down. Two or three of us are close to retirement. They’re in their 60’s, so they won’t be here for many more years, and we’re on our feet so many hours that the deal is in the course of the long hours over so many years, thirty-five or forty years, it puts wear and tear on us. It takes a long time to kill hogs, so we had to give up something.

DV: So all the beef in your meat case comes from your slaughterhouse?

KP: All from the slaughterhouse.

DV: So, Kathy, what’s your position here?

MP: Kathy takes care of all the book work, waits on customers, prepares meat. The biggest thing that everybody does is everybody is a big part of cleaning things up. That comes with the meat market job; everything needs cleaning.

DV: Mark, what about you?

KP: Mark does all the barbecue.

MP: I took Monroe’s spot. He retired a year and a half ago, but I’ve been barbecuing since I was eighteen years old. When he was gone, I would barbecue. I was taught at a young age.

DV: Monroe had finally had enough?

GP: He still wants to, but he says he can’t do it anymore.

DV: Do any other Prauses work here?

GP: It’s us four, and Dennis Ahlschlager. He works in the back making sausage and grinding hamburger, but then when we get busy he helps up front as well.

DV: Who started the market?

GP: Our great-grandfather Arnold Prause Jr. started the market. He worked in Fayetteville, Texas in the 1880s and the 1890s as a youngster. He married and moved here in 1904 when he opened the meat market. He had two boys, Glen and Jimmy. Glen had three boys. They were all our parents: Glen Jr., Steve, and Moxie. Jimmy never married, he was single, so there weren’t any offspring to take over from his side. My dad, Glen Jr., had me and Tommy, Steve had Brian and Kathy, and Moxie had Mark and his brother Craig.

Prause Interview 06

Steve, Glen Jr., and Moxie Prause

DV: So you two [Brian and Kathy] are brother and sister, and the rest of you are cousins?

GP: Right. At one time we had nine Prauses working in here. Our grandmother Annie, would come in. She’d bring a mop and a bucket and she’d mop the whole place up with a mop and a bucket. It would take her all day, but she was tough.

DV: I’d read before that the market dated back to maybe the 1890s or so.

GP: Our great-grandfather Arnold worked in the meat business in Fayetteville. The Knippels owned it, and he worked there and learned the trade.

[Gary leaves to take a phone call]

DV: Where was Arnold from?

KP: The whole family came from Prussia. All I know is they had two brothers who came over from Prussia, and they already didn’t get along over there, so they came over on two separate boats. They both landed in Galveston and they hauled a** two different directions.

DV: Where’d the other one go?

MP: Might’ve been Columbus, but there are a lot of Prause kinfolk that we have down toward Columbus, Cuero, and in all of that area.

DV: Okay. When the meat market here in La Grange opened, was that 1904?

MP: Gary claims 1904, I don’t remember a lot of the history.

Prause Interview 08

Arnold and Glen Prause Sr. in the 1930’s

BP: On the tax records, grandpa and them, they had two or three markets here. This one opened in ’53, I think.

DV: In this building?

BP: In this building in ’53.

DV: What was this building before?

MP: It was a grocery, a clothing store and a grocery building all in one.

KP: A barber’s and everything.

DV: Was the barbecue pit in the back?

MP: Not yet. The barbecue pit didn’t go there until 1953. They barbecued all the time on the other side of the square. I don’t know how the pits were set up, I don’t know a lot about it. The only thing I know about it is this place opened up in October of ’53 and they built the pit. We’ve been around a while, and it’s been around a while.

BP: They sold fresh meat, and for whatever reason there was meat that would not sell, so they would put salt and pepper on it and throw it on the pit and sell it that way.

MP: Either that or grind it up and make sausage to keep the meat moving and to keep everything fresh. Because when you cut something it bleeds, and when it bleeds it’s going to turn dark because it loses its bloom, and as long as it keeps its moisture it stays fresh, so that’s what the pit was always used for. But like I was saying earlier, barbecuing has become different. It’s still used basically for the same thing, but now it’s a big commodity. Everybody is looking to go eat barbecue somewhere.

DV: And go on big barbecue tours and all that good stuff.

KP: We had a bunch of them in here today who saw that Daytripper show.

MP: You’ve got cook-offs everywhere. That’s another thing: some people like different kinds of seasoned meats, some people add sugar or honey to their stuff. We still just do salt and pepper.

DV: You said that, back in the day, it was whatever leftover cuts you had. I would assume you’d just walk in and order barbecued beef?

MP: You’d kind of look in there and say, ‘I’d like some of this right here.’ It might be a flank roll or ribs. We had some briskets.

BP: In the olden days there weren’t even feedlots like there are today. Back in the day they’d take the whole animal and cook the whole damn thing. There was no set barbecue that was going to be on the pit. It was just different back then.

DV: Do you remember when y’all started moving toward only cooking briskets?

MP: Steve and them would still cook something on the pit every now and then, a plate rib or a flank.

BP: Plate rib and flank was still in the ‘70s. They didn’t have any kind of boxed meat in those days.

[Gary ends his phone conversation and comes back to the table]

GP: Somebody wants to buy the meat market.

DV: How long has it been up for sale?

GP: We’ve been thinking about it for a while, but last year in the spring we put out on the web. We got a local lady who went to school with Mark who’s a real estate agent.

DV: Gary, where was the market located before it opened in this building?

GP: In 1953, my dad had just gotten back from Korea. My dad and my grandfather had it for just a short time, we’re talking six months, they had it for a short time across the street, and it was in the back of a grocery store.

Prause Interview 02

The current Prause Meat Market

DV: On the other side of the square?

GP: Yes, the meat was in the back. There was a guy who retired, and they took over his business. He had credit, and they had to take over his credit. Well after six months, everybody was eating meat but nobody was paying for it, so they said, ‘Man, we can’t do this anymore,’ so they jumped from there into here and we’ve been here ever since.

KP: Do you remember if there was barbecue at any of the other locations?

GP: Yeah, over here, barbecue over there. I’ll tell you a story. We’ve got a picture up here somewhere; I might have it at the house, of when we were over here on the east side of the square. It was run by my grandfather and Jimmy. My daddy died [in 2012] and we was at the church at the reception after the funeral. A guy came up to him, Willie Hunger, he’s like eighty-six years old. He said, “I can remember going into your grandfather’s market when I was four years old.” This was back in the 1930’s. He said, “I went in holding my daddy’s hand, and they were busy putting up orders.” He said “A lady had called an order in who lived up on the bluff about two or three miles from here, and they put that order up for her and then they delivered it to her house because she didn’t have a car. And the bill was $0.25, and they delivered it to her for $0.25.” That’s the way they did business.

KP: Was it great-grandpa that came from Prussia?

GP: Great-great grandpa came from Prussia [Arnold Prause Sr. emigrated to Texas from Prussia in 1854], which is a part of Germany now, but it was called Prussia back then. That’s where our ancestors came from in Europe.

DV: Was Arnold the first to come to La Grange?

GP: Yes. Arnold was the one who got into meat. He started here in 1904 but he was a kid. He learned the trade in Fayetteville and came over here right after the turn of the century. We’ve got one meat block in the front of the window that’s like a hundred ten years old. All four generations of Prauses cut meat on that block. There’s not a whole lot of it left!

Prause Interview 09

Gary Prause cutting brisket. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

DV: How did y’all come to be in the business?

MP: Well we all had choices, but we grew up knowing that this was here.

BP: I was watching TV one day when I was about twelve years old, watching Bugs Bunny and these big, burly hands came and grabbed me on the shoulders and said, “No more cartoons for you, boy.” That’s just the way it’s been.

GP: For me, it was being with my father and my brother and my uncles.

KP: We all had choices, believe me.

MP: When you grow up with family doing that, you feel more or less pressured or obligated to come work for the business. Everybody had choices but I’ll be honest with you, I wanted to go play baseball. I had scholarships to go play baseball. I just never went. I didn’t really want to go to school, and that’s the whole reason I didn’t go play ball is because I didn’t want to hack the books anymore.

DV: Did you all learn meat cutting?

MP: Pretty well. Everybody kind of learned their own area.

GP: You watch and learn, and then you get throwed into it and you just do it. Everybody in here cuts meat.

MP: And Gary’s our main meat cutter, he cuts meat every day.

GP: When I’m busy and I can’t cut, well Kathy, Brian, Mark, all of them cut.

KP: What’s funny is when I first started working here it was in ’79, and the first thing I had to learn how to do was cut up a chicken into pieces. I had his daddy [pointing to Mark] telling me how to cut it up, I had my daddy telling me how to cut it up, which was different from his father, and then his father [pointing at Gary] was telling me how to cut it up, which was totally different from both of them, so before it was over I had the biggest damn mess you’ve ever seen. Finally his dad [pointing to Gary] pulled me over and said, “You’re cutting this goddamn chicken like this and this is the way you’re cutting it, and that’s it.”

GP: After it’s all said and done, you do it like you want to do it.

KP: Which is the way he does it.

DV: Gary, you say you cut meat more than anybody. Was there a time that you worked here that you weren’t doing briskets?

GP: Well in the ‘70s, we had briskets, and we had boneless roll. We would take flank meat and we would bone it out and roll it up, and we called it poo peck a la King because it’s a flank. [Poo peck is a Czech word for belly button, and the flank is from the belly of the steer].

BP: We’d bone out a neck and tie it up on a string and call it a bell loin.

GP: In the late ‘70s, the bone-in brisket left and the boneless brisket started, and it got down to where the last fifteen or twenty years, it’s been straight boneless brisket. People ask for beef and they want boneless brisket.

DV: When’s the last time you had a bone-in brisket in your case?

GP: I can’t remember.

DV: Do you sell many raw briskets, or do they all go back to the smoker?

MP: We sell a few.

GP: We have some who like that little white gristle bone in the bottom of the brisket. We have a few customers who will take it like that.

BP: Back in the day if it was a brisket on the pit it had a bone in it. Nobody ever boned that out, because everybody liked to chew on the bone.

MP: For probably fifteen years it’s been nothing but solid briskets. Every now and then we have a customer ask for a plate rib or something like that, we may barbecue one, but very seldom.

GP: And most of our pork had bone in it. We had a country rib and a pork chop. Now it’s all boneless pork.

DV: What all is on the barbecue menu today?

GP: Today we have boneless brisket, boneless pork roll, pork chop, chicken, and sausage. That’s what we have in meats.

DV: And what’s the pork roll?

GP: That’s a shoulder. I take a whole butt, I bone it out, I cut it in half and I make two rolls, one out of each half. We don’t cook something ahead of time and then reheat it. We put everything on fresh. It takes a lot longer to get ready, about five hours I would say.

Prause Interview 07

Sausage, brisket, and pork roll. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

DV: Is it all oak that you cook with?

MP: Post oak.

DV: Mark, you said you’ve been cooking here since you were eighteen. What were you cooking back then?

MP: The meats have changed over the last fifteen years. It used to be flanks, plate ribs, and like I said I learned back then and we went through several barbecue people. Monroe, when he would get sick or something or was on vacation, I’d fill in.

KP: Daddy showed you how, didn’t he?

MP: All of them did. I learned from him. He sent me back there and said, “This is your job today.” He said, “Watching barbecue. That’s your job.” And then one day one of them didn’t show up and I got thrown in the mix. He said, “You’ve been watching, you’ve got to barbecue.” So if you had any questions, you just went up front and found somebody and asked them.

DV: Is that the way it worked on the butcher block, too?

MP: Yeah. When you first start, you’re not going to cut every one right.

BP: [Motioning with his hand] A little more this way. Maybe a little more. There you go!

GP: Moxie tickled me. I’ve got to tell you a story about him. When he first started working he was little, he was short. They were in grade school when they started working here. Moxie was not tall enough to reach the table top to work, and grandpa had him making sausage. He had to take these soda water crates, he’d tie two or three of them together and would stand on top of them so he could get to the table to work. That’s no joke.

DV: The sausage recipe. What’s in the barbecue sausage? What kind of meat is it?.

MP: It’s half beef and half pork.

DV: And then salt and pepper?

MP: Salt, pepper, garlic and then you’ve got your salt cure, which we put the least amount we can. That’s all it is.

DV: Do you consider that a German sausage?

MP: Most people would say it’s a German sausage.

KP: People call ‘em hot guts.

MP: That’s basically all of our sausage, all of our recipes, it’s all pepper and garlic, that’s it.

DV: I’m guessing the recipes haven’t changed much over the years.

GP: It’s the same recipe our dads had and our grandfather had.

DV: It’s more pork than what I find in most of the German sausage at other barbecue joints.

MP: Well see we have a pure pork sausage, too. The old way of seasoning stuff, back when they were here in the old days, Steve would look at the table and he’d sprinkle what he thought he needed.

KP: Nothing was measured.

MP: They just did it by hand. They had one fellow come work for them who said, “Well how am I supposed to know what to do?” He said, “Well this bag has this much of this,” so they weighed it out and that’s how they got their recipe. They took the container and, depending on how much it weighed, they said, “Well, we’ll do this.” They had a bag of salt, a can of pepper, and some garlic. They weighed what they had left, and that’s how they got their recipe.

GP: And they did it for like five days in a row and took an average.

BP: S***! it wasn’t an average, it was the same weight every time! He got exact. And he said, “I just go by eye.”

DV: Well when the story of Texas barbecue is normally told, especially central Texas barbecue, it’s usually something along the lines of a meat market started and they started smoking their leftover beef and pretty soon the barbecue got more popular and the meat market went away. That’s been the story for most every barbecue joint around Texas, except y’all.

BP: I mean we’re still doing it but I can tell you right now, it’s switching over to nothing but barbecue.

MP: It’s going that way.

BP: And that’s due to the high meat prices.

GP: It’s keeping up with cattle prices.

MP: And that was all due to the drought back in 2011, and it’s continued from there. The herds haven’t replenished themselves. There’s a shortage of cattle, but everybody needs them so prices are going up.

GP: This year for example, when we started in January we had $9.90 a pound on our barbecue. We’ve got $12.90 a pound now. It’s gone up $3.00 a pound. It’s all because cattle prices have gone up.

DV: Well brisket prices specifically are going up too. But y’all don’t buy boxed brisket then, right?

MP: Oh yeah, we’ve had to. For about fifteen years we’ve been doing that.

GP: You know, we’re doing this in a small town, we’re not in a big city or anything, and the thing about small towns is that if somebody starts messing up, it doesn’t take a week before everybody knows about it. The next thing you know you’re shut down. This community has been there for us for four generations. It’s been 110 or 111 years now. And we’ve been there for them that same amount of time through three or four generations of family. That says something, not just about the Prause family, but it says something about the community in which we live. This is a good place to be. Where else could this happen? Where else does something like this work?

DV: For y’all, what percentage of business is raw meat versus cooked?

GP: It’s getting more and more cooked versus raw.

DV: Is it about half and half?

GP: I would say it’s closer to that right now. It was definitely more raw meat over barbecue, but we’ve turned down half-beefs and things like that. We don’t ship—we could be shipping. We don’t cater—we could be catering with our barbecue. We turn people down all the time for catering.

MP: We could do it, but like I said, we’re tired.

DV: And there’s no interest from the fifth generation of Prauses?

KP: Our kids want jobs that have benefits, overtime, insurance, and they want vacation. They want to be able to go places and do things.

MP: You have no life. You’re here six days a week, and a lot of times seven.

GP: Back when I started washing pots and pans in 1966, we were here from 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night six days every week. Before I started working here, on Fridays and Saturdays they stayed open until 10:00 at night. So look at the hours that they put in! We work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week.

DV: When did y’all cut that back to 2 p.m.?

MP: March of this year.

KP: The fifth generation, I can’t blame them because just the other day we were all talking about, for the first time we were closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the July Fourth weekend.

GP: That’s the first time we’ve done that in our lives. We don’t take vacations.

MP: I just told them, “I’m not coming. I’m headed for the coast.” And they said, “Then why be open, because that’s what they’re coming for is the barbecue.”

GP: Our fifth generation…I’ve got a son and Brian has two boys, Kathy has a daughter and I have a daughter too, but there are four of us, and you need at least four people to keep it going if it’s going to stay in the family. There’s not four of the fifth generation here to do that. There’s interest, but there’s not enough interest.

DV: So you’re getting some interest in purchasing the place, then?

GP: Yes, I just got a call while you were talking. The lady asked a question. She wanted to know if some of us would stay. I said, “well sure, some of us would probably stay here to make sure y’all got off to a good start, and once you’re running we’ll turn you loose and it’s yours.”

Prause Interview 03

Prause Meat Market interior

DV: Well y’all have been at this for many years. It seems like you’re certainly ready to move on from it. Are you worried about what it’s going to feel like when you’re done?

MP: I’m not worried. I’m looking to work somewhere part-time because there are a few of us with medical conditions. The doctor does not want me on this concrete floor anymore. The doctor doesn’t want Kathy on it, but she doesn’t listen. Basically after the doctor told me what he told me about my legs, I came to the conclusion that I want to enjoy the rest of my life. It’s not that I don’t like the business, I love the family business. If I’d been in good health, I would stay here and work, but I’m not in good health anymore. I have a hard time standing up every day.

GP: To me, it will be like losing my daddy all over again, losing the meat market. It means that much to me. It’s a process you have to work through. I’ll miss it at first. I’m going to think about it every day, but after a while, like my dad has been gone for a couple of years now, I sit and laugh about things that we did together. I couldn’t do that at first, and it’s going to be the same way with this when we leave. I’m not going to be able to laugh at first, but later on I’ll laugh about things that happened.

DV: You’ll be driving by here looking in the window.

MP: You’re always looking to see if anything is wrong: Did somebody break in? Are there any water leaks? Is a motor out?

KP: Or is there a fire? That pit is still going when we leave.

Prause Interview 04

Mark Prause at the pit

MP: The old saying is, all good things come to an end. And they do. You can’t live forever. Nobody in this business has ever enjoyed any of their life. There has been no life—this is your life.

KP: He keeps asking me what I want to do, and I say I want to go sit on my a** in the sand and my toes in the water and not move.

MP: A lot of my girlfriends would’ve been married to me already. The whole thing is, they wanted a life outside this place. This came first. They wanted to go somewhere on a Friday night. A lot of times I’m too tired. They wanted to go out of town on Saturday, but we’re here at 5:30 in the morning. I get up at 4:30.

GP: I’m the only one married out of the bunch, and it doesn’t bother my wife that I’m working so much.

MP: My mother will tell you right now, there’s many times she’s thought about it, but she’s a strong Catholic and she takes ‘till death do us part seriously. Otherwise my mom said if she had to do it again, there’s no way in hell she’d do it. It’s a lot of stress.

GP: That’s what it takes to keep something like this going.

MP: A meat market is different than a clothing store or anything else. You’ve got to work and move stuff here, otherwise it gets bad, you throw it away and you go broke. That’s the difference between running an automotive shop. You can leave that there and it’s not going to go bad. You don’t have to worry about it. Here you’ve always got to worry about whether the coolers are running, where the animals are coming from next week, if you’re going to have any animals, and then you’ve got to sell it. If you get bad weather days, you don’t sell much. It just depends. It’s a roller-coaster ride in the meat business.

GP: Then you’ve got a surprise visit from an inspector that you weren’t planning on.

MP: You’ve got so much government intervention now. You do E-coli tests, water samples, and it’s no fun anymore. All the family businesses out there are slowly withering away. It’s not that they can’t make a good living, but it takes so much work now and there are so many government-affiliate organizations involved in everything that you can’t breathe without the government breathing down your neck. It’s just like our recipes. When that all got turned over, all the recipes we have need to be approved by the state.

GP: You have to go to the state inspectors and they have to grant you a variance so you can keep making your product. Before they can grant you one, they have to know exactly what’s in there—every ounce of it.

DV: Just the barbecue, or the sausage, too?

MP: Any cured item. Sausage, bacon, jerky.

GP: Not the barbecue, but the barbecue sausage, smoked sausage.

MP: They get so technical. Even our jerky—to make jerky, we have to send samples into the government and they have to measure the moisture content. So we just call it beef sticks and cut it on the counter.

GP: If you call it beef sticks, you don’t have to send it to the lab.

MP: It just shows you how stupid some things are.

DV: When’s the last time any of you purchased meat from somewhere other than here?

MP: I purchased some seasoned fajita beef from HEB about two months ago. It was chicken.

KP: I do boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

GP: If you want to call a frozen pizza or fried chicken or a hamburger from somewhere else…

MP: We all eat our meat out of here. I’ll be honest with you, once I leave here I’ll be very selective with what I eat. I’ll eat a lot of fish. I’ll probably eat more deer during deer season.

GP: He fishes a lot and he hunts a lot and it’s all stuff that he catches or makes himself. But when you’ve got something that comes from somebody else, two weeks ago on the Fayette County record HEB had a big meat recall. A whole lot of different things were recalled.

DV: And for more than a hundred years y’all have never had a problem. That’s pretty amazing.

GP: Well you get taught the right way and you do what you were taught. You do it for generation after generation after generation.

MP: Don’t get me wrong, all meat markets, if they say they haven’t, they’re lying. But in all meat markets sooner or later you’re going to have something that you can’t use. It goes in the barrel.

KP: My nephew works there in the meat department and he says you wouldn’t believe what they have to chunk because they don’t have a barbecue pit to put it on.

DV: So Brian’s son works at the HEB market?

GP: He’s been doing it for fifteen years.

MP: The thing is, he has a life. He has insurance, which none of us have. He’s single, but he hunts and fishes a whole lot, and he plays baseball, which I used to do. Everybody wants to have a life. Everybody wants to be able to go out and enjoy a few days off. We don’t have that. We have one day off a week, and that’s Sunday.

GP: This will show you what we do. I broke a bone in my leg eight weeks ago. I went to the doctor, and it took me roughly forty-five minutes to get from here to the doctor and back. That’s the only time I took off with a broken bone in my leg.

DV: How’d you break it?

GP: I had a hindquarter that was seventy or eighty pounds, and I always rotate my meat in the cooler, I always put fresh meat in the back and the older meat to the front. I was moving the fresh to the front, grabbed it, threw it on the hook thinking I had it hooked, but when I let go it tore loose, came down, hit a box and all eighty pounds caught me right here in the leg.

KP: He’s the only person I know who got his a** kicked by a calf that was dead.

GP: I was limping when a customer came in. He said “what happened?” I said, “I just got kicked by a calf, and Brian butchered it two days ago!”

DV: I think people know that you have it up for sale and a lot of locals do. Do you hear from them?

KP: Oh, they’re not happy.

MP: They don’t want us to leave.

GP: Well everybody hopes that we stay around a little longer. They hope that whoever takes over does everything just the way we’re doing it now. I we hope that’s what happens, but you don’t know for sure.

KP: You can’t tell somebody who purchases the business how to run it. You can give them some opinions.

MP: I can tell you some things right now, if I was running this business by myself, that I would do differently.

DV: Like this green color [pointing to the walls]?

Prause Interview 01

The pea green walls of the dining room

GP: It’s called pea green.

DV: Who chose that?

GP: My dad. He loved it. If you look up there, you see where one of them is a little bit darker. The darker green one is called moss green.

KP: And that’s the one we liked.

GP: I repainted that one a while back. I was doing it on weekends, Fourth of July and stuff like that, but I didn’t do everything. I just did some of it. I got tired of climbing up and down ladders all the time.

DV: The front door here leads into the meat market, while the back door leads through the pit room and to the barbecue counter. How many of your barbecue customers know to come to the back door?

MP: Quite a few now. Still a lot of people say, “Is this the way, or are we supposed to come through the back door?”

DV: It doesn’t look like you should walk through there once you step inside. It feels like you went through the wrong door.

KP: I say, if you’ve got money, you can come in any door I’ve got.

DV: It’s amazing that y’all have survived with the HEBs of the world and all the other grocery stores.

GP: I graduated from high school in 1972. There were nine places in La Grange you could buy meat.

DV: And did they all sell barbecue, too?

GP: A lot of them did.

KP: We’re the last one.


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