Longtime Econofoods meat manager hanging up apron

Joe Dehmlow, 66, has spent 48 years as a meat cutter. He’s been a manager 43 years and spent 31 of those years with Econofoods.

Joe Dehmlow, meat department manager for Econofoods in Wahpeton and Breckenridge, Minnesota, is preparing to hang up his apron.

Dehmlow, 66, has spent 48 years as a meat cutter. He’s been a manager 43 years and spent 31 of those years with Econofoods. In addition to the Twin Towns Area stores, he also makes decisions for the meat departments of two Econofoods stores in Bemidji, Minnesota.

While Dehmlow’s last official day is Friday, Dec. 25, his last day at Econofoods itself is Thursday, Dec. 24. With less than three weeks until retirement, Dehmlow is taking time to make memories.

“I’ve really appreciated all the customers over the years,” he said. “It’s been a big deal to me. I could work a 13-hour shift, be walking out the door — dragging, feeling pretty tired. If I saw customers who needed help, I’d wait on them. The customers have been great and I’ve done what I can to help them over the years.”

Dehmlow currently oversees a staff of seven in Wahpeton, although it’s been as high as 12 people. He feels Econofoods’ meat department is in good hands.

“We established things a long time ago, like quality. There’s no give on quality ever at any time. We’ve always had top quality beef, pork and poultry and we’ve been able to maintain that,” he said.

Originally from Sanborn, Minnesota, Dehmlow graduated high school in May 1972. He planned to attend what is now Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Pipestone, Minnesota, to receive bricklaying training.

“My high school buddy was going to be a meat cutter,” Dehmlow said. “I sat in on his interview and right then and there, I decided I was going to be a meat cutter. He became one. There were 103 meat cutters being trained in Pipestone at the time. We kinda ruled the school.”

After cutting meat in Mankato and then St. James, Minnesota, Dehmlow worked in Grand Forks, North Dakota, before settling in Wahpeton.

“I was looking to go west and I didn’t get too much far west,” he said, smiling.

A father of three and grandfather of 10, Dehmlow is appreciative of his wife, Rhonda. She’s been a part of his life for more than 50 years, including their 47 years married.

“I couldn’t have done anything I’ve done without the great help of my wife. She won’t return for a while yet, but when she does, things will be different,” Dehmlow said.

Dehmlow’s immediate post-retirement plans include working on projects at home, visiting his 93-year-old mother, who still lives in her home, and also visiting his brothers and grandchildren. He and Rhonda love traveling and hope to eventually do some more.

Young people interested in the meat cutting and retail worlds should know the ups and downs, Dehmlow said.

“I’ve worked 30 out of 31 days,” he recalled. “We work umpteen hours a week, including long days. Expect that. We’re not closed on holidays or Saturdays and Sundays. We’re open at night. You’ve got to expect to be available and to work hard.”

Meat cutting can also be a fulfilling job, Dehmlow said. There’s decent pay and success available for anyone who wants to work hard and receive training.

“I’ve been very thankful for the department managers, store heads and the great meat cutters I’ve worked with over the years. Another thing that’s helped me out over the years are the salespeople that represent the different meat companies,” Dehmlow said.

Befriending and getting to know sales representatives can lead to excitement.

“There have been times where I think I might have everything ordered, and I get a call,” Dehmlow recalled. “By the end, I’ve ordered hundreds of cases of hams coming from Kansas City and ribeye from Fargo. I’ve purchased $60,000 worth of meat in 40 minutes.”

Daily News wishes Dehmlow a happy retirement.

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