Ole Knaus had a meat market in Watkins, MN which he sold to Joseph Leither. Ole then proceeded to purchase a building in the town of Kimball in the year 1912. Little did he realize this transaction would expand into the famous Knaus Sausage House.
Ole, his wife Theresa, and their ten children lived above the store and diligently shared the burden of work. His main source of transportation and communication was the horse and buggy. Ole slaughtered the animals on his land where he had built a slaughter house. Having no refrigeration, Ole had his sons cut ice in the winter and pack it in sawdust, a form of insulation, to prevent the rapid deterioration of the ice. The ice was then stored in an ice house Ole had built behind the butcher shop. The ice was transported on top of coolers for the preservation of the meat. Theresa Knaus not only raised her large family, but did her share of work by mixing and grinding the meat for the sausage that gained the famous recognition through the years.
The second generation wheels began to roll when Ole sold his business to his son Aloys Knaus, better known as “Butch”. His wife Rena also helped in the store. They had one son, Al. Butch continued to make sausage from the recipe he obtained from his father. He proceeded to heed the call of progress and had electricity installed; refrigeration replaced the ice coolers, making better accommodations and convenience for his customers. Lockers were installed and rented out, enabling the farmers to take advantage of refrigeration. Their meat was packaged and labeled as to the contents, making it possible for the customer to obtain the cuts of meat whenever they needed them. Butch, unlike his father, went to the individual farms to do the butchering.
Butch sold the business to his brother Carlyle on June 1, 1946, who had returned home from the Marine Corps. The business continued to be operated as Butch ran it for a couple of years. Then Carlyle began to remodel by tearing out the lockers in the store and had new lockers built next to the village hall. The coolers also were eliminated, making more room in the meat market. Three large freezers were installed, plus a curing room and two coolers for storage. Carl then bought Dr. Sherwood’s building, south of the store, and added a grocery store. He proceeded to buy Shorty Baldwin’s grocery store and Ella Tufft’s restaurant to the north, where another freezer and warehouse and sausage kitchen were added. He also added a slaughter house which is still in use.
Fifteen different kinds of sausages were introduced by Caryle, plus pickled gizzards, turkey tails and pickled tongues.
Caryle and LaVerne had seven children: two girls and five boys. All are presently active in the business except Diane.
In 1974 the business was incorporated and the third generation began to operate the business. Pat was elected president of the corporation. In 1976 a store in Maple Lake was purchased which Pat manages.
Suzette manages the grocery department, Ron the retail meat department, while Kurt and Doug do custom processing – cutting meat for the farmers. Ken is the sausage manager and Kurt assists in making the sausage.
LaVerne went to Wisconsin to learn the art of making bakery products, and a small bakery department was installed. A deli was added which features home-made beans, potato salad and other salads, plus a section for various cheeses.
The production of sausage has grown to a ton a day. New, modern equipment had to be added as the store prospered to enable them to keep up with changing times. Everything has been upgraded from mechanical to electronic equipment. For example, the smoke house is now electric instead of the old-fashioned method of coal and sawdust, to produce the smoke. A refrigerator truck was added, and they go directly to the farmer’s home to do the butchering. The truck is fully equipped with a power hoist, and water for sanitation and convenience. The meat is then taken to the store to be packaged and labeled. Carlyle retired in 1980.
Deer processing has increased to 800 a year, and tons of venison sausage is produced. The specialties they off are bar-b-qued ribs and broasted chicken.
The building has been remodeled inside and out, while life-sized bull – the symbol of the market – has been elevated to a more prominent position on top of the building.
The fourth generation is already getting into the business by doing work assigned to them, and the pride and love of their customers continues to flourish.