Schmidt strives to bring families back to the table

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | March 26, 2019

2019 Faith That Works award recipient

GREENVILLE — The tagline for The Meat Block, “From our family to your table,” has special meaning to owner Phil Schmidt. Among his goals for the business is to help make a difference for families.

“Everything we sell here is something we would serve at home to our own family,” he said. “We do a lot of ready-to-eat meals. Our goal is to bring the family back to the dinner table, even if it’s just once or twice a week. Mom or dad can’t say we don’t have time to make the meal. Grab it off the shelf, throw it in the oven, do homework for an hour and then sit down and eat as a family. We found that for our own family, we had the most stress when weren’t sitting down for dinner.”

Phil Schmidt and his wife, Vicki, opened The Meat Block, a full-service meat market in Greenville, in 2010. The business gives back through food donations to churches, schools and community organizations for functions and fundraisers. (Scott Eastman | For The Compass)

The Meat Block, a full-service meat market, opened in 2010. Schmidt had previously worked for more than 19 years at Haen Meat Packing in Kaukauna.

“The four brothers who owned it treated us very well,” explained Schmidt, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Meat Science Laboratory Master Meat Crafter Program. “We asked them if they wanted to start a store. They said, ‘No, but if you want to, go ahead.’ We found some investors who believed in what I was selling and we started it.”

Schmidt and his wife, Vicki, were struggling in their faith when The Meat Block opened. They resided in Hollandtown at the time.

“We just were not finding what we were looking for,” said Phil. “Our neighbor was a pastor for a Lutheran church. We even talked about going to some nondenominational churches. We were both raised Catholic.”

Phil grew up in Darboy as a member of Holy Angels Parish. He has fond memories of the impact Fr. Mike Dory had on the parish community.

“I would go to Mass several times on Sunday to see if he needed a server because we lived across the field,” he said.

Phil and Vicki met in 1991 and were married in 1997 by Fr. Mathew Simonar at Holy Innocents Church in Manitowoc, her hometown.

Even with their faith struggles, the sacraments remained important, so they decided to try Mass at St. Mary Church in Greenville because of the location of the business. Fr. Mark Vander Steeg was the pastor at St. Mary at the time. They found a new spiritual home.

“We didn’t know (Fr. Vander Steeg), but sitting through the homily, I think we both had tears in our eyes just hearing him speak,” said Phil. “He delivered a pro-life message and was speaking very lovingly and very directly.”

Following Mass they introduced themselves and their two children at the time — Taylor, now 19, and Logan, now 16 — to Fr. Vander Steeg and returned the next Sunday.

“The homily was wonderful again,” said Phil. “We walked out of church and Fr. Mark was there. People were all around him and he said, ‘Logan buddy, come here and give me a high five.’ Instantly, I teared up. I said Vicki, we are actually somebody here. We soon met a whole bunch of families. St. Mary’s is just a wonderful parish.”

Fr. Vander Steeg, now pastor at St. Bernard Parish in Green Bay, is still close with the Schmidt family. They host him for a meal once or twice a year and visit him in Green Bay. The Schmidt family has grown since joining St. Mary Parish.

“We have 10 children, six that are with us (four miscarriages),” said Phil.

Mark, 6, is named after Fr. Vander Steeg. Alex is 5, Samantha is 3 and Emma is 2.

“Our plan was two kids,” said Vicki. “God has different plans.”

Phil is a member of the Knights of Columbus, part of a core team for That Man is You and secretary trustee for St. Mary Parish. Through the business he donates to churches, schools and community organizations, including providing meat each month to the Hortonville Food Pantry in Dale.

The Schmidts, who now live in Greenville, are also assisting a family in need from St. Mary School. A mother of a student in Mark’s class is going through cancer. Vicki brings her communion and Phil has reached out to her husband.

“Ten guys from church started a ‘Bookless Club’ where we get together to play cards and talk,” he explained. “We invited her husband to get out of the house. ‘I said to the guys, ‘Hey, just pray for him.’ One of the guys said, ‘Let’s pray right now,’ so we ended our card playing night in prayer.”

Phil is open about his faith with The Meat Block employees.

“We don’t push our faith on the people here, but they definitely know where we stand,” he said. “They know they can talk to us about it anytime they want to. We try to provide opportunities and it’s their choice to take those opportunities.

“We will sacrifice for our employees to make sure their lives are good,” he added. “If something happens, I call (Vicki) and she steps up at home and I step up here. It’s part of what we signed up for.”

The business expanded in 2014 with the purchase of BBQ Pits-n-Spits, a grill and accessories store operated out of The Meat Block. Phil describes his schedule as “very busy, but it’s a good busy.” He admits that he needs to follow the lead of Fr. Michael Warden, pastor at St. Mary Parish.

“He goes away on Mondays. He gets out of town. There is always such a pile of stuff to do,” he said. “I need to learn to get away.”

His faith life helps him find balance.

“When I worked at Haen’s 50 hours a week, we never had time for church. We had all the excuses not to go to Mass,” he said. “Now, we work 80 hours a week and we don’t miss Mass and we added four more kids. We don’t miss holy days. Vicki goes to daily Mass two or three times a week. You find time for what’s important.”

To recognize those in business who promote the common good, The Compass invites leaders and parish leadership to nominate candidates for the fifth annual “Faith That Works” Awards. Click here to learn more. 

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