They Can’t Live Without Charlanne Farms’ Food

SOUTHINGTON, Ohio – When Judy Hecky of Garrettsville began preparing for a visit to Florida, one of her priorities was stopping at Charlanne Farms Inc. to pick up some supplies for the trip.

“I’ve probably been shopping here for 30 years,” Hecky says of the retail store on Warren-Burton Road in Southington.

Hecky’s supplies include some of her favorite foods that only the store provides. All will be in her car as she travels hundreds of miles south to a surprise party for her brother, although some won’t make it there.

“These are for the car ride,” she says as she holds up a bag of smoked beef sticks.

Other items are a bag of beef jerky (“My husband’s addicted to it”) and a bag of bacon ends and pieces (“I’m going to take them to Florida and make cabbage and noodles for the party”).

But the most important item on her list is a bottled spice mixture Hecky “can’t eat food without.”

Her brother must feel the same way. “And one of these is a birthday present for my 75-year-old brother,” she says as she stuffs two bottles into her shopping bag.

One reason Hecky is such a fan at Charlanne Farms is that much of the food it offers is sourced locally, resulting in a better product, its customers believe.

“If you want the better quality, you come here,” she says matter-of-factly.

Charlanne Farms Inc. has been supplying and processing local foods, particularly beef and pork, since Charles Plott first opened its doors in 1970.

“He built it on the family farm in Southington,” says Wayne Plott, Charles’ son and vice president of the company.

“He started off doing processing for local farmers,” Plott says of his grandfather. “They would raise the beef and need someone to process it for them and for their customers.”

The store sits in the original site of the family farm, but most of the work is done at its processing center in Cortland.

On this day, six workers are making hamburger patties. Their work begins around 5 a.m. Four hours later, the patties have been made and nearly all are packaged and ready to ship.

“We probably do about 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of boneless bull meat each week,” Plott says.

Today Charlanne Farms employs 25 and puts out a much greater volume of product than when it opened, but the focus remains on local suppliers.

All of the company’s ground beef is produced nearby at Mahan Packing Co. in Bristolville, just north of Southington.

“My grandfather’s known them his whole life,” says Zack Plott, Wayne’s son and manager of the retail store. “We’ve dealt with them since we’ve been in business.”

The pigs at Charlanne Farms come from Sandusky, while “chicken is coming out of P.A. and West Virginia,” Plott says.

A big attraction at the store is the delicatessen, which features all of the company’s lunchmeats and cheeses.

“All of our cheeses come out of Great Lake Cheese Co. in Parkman and Troyer Cheese Co. in Millersburg,” Plott says.

While most Charlanne Farms products are sold to the public, it also sells to some 30 restaurants in the area.

“We still have two trucks on the road six days a week, so it keeps us quite busy,” says Wayne Plott with a laugh.

And when deer season rolls around, things get even busier. Charlanne Farms does a lot of business by processing the deer local hunters shoot.

“If they decide not to do it themselves in their garage, which a lot of them do, they bring it to us,” says Plott, who estimates Charlanne Farms processes around 800 deer a year.

The deer is broken down into steaks, chops, and roasts, but what really attracts the hunters, Plott says, is the company smoking their meats. “That is our forte,” he says with a smile.

The company’s snack sticks are among its most popular products. “Last season we made close to 20,000 pounds of them,” Plott says.

The smoked meats have become so popular that Charlanne Farms has begun to draw hunters from outside the state. Zack cites two hunters who routinely “drive from West Virginia – 4½ hours, one-way – to get their deer processed here.”

And it’s not just hunters who have taken notice. At this year’s state competition of the Ohio Association of Meat Processors, Charlanne Farms walked away with 10 ribbons from the 12 categories it entered.

“We’re quite proud of this smokehouse operation and the product we produce with it,” says Wayne Plott.

Recently Charlanne Farms has begun seeing more and more people coming in, searching for locally produced food.

“It’s definitely a trend,” Plott says. “People are concerned that they’re getting a wholesome cut of meat, no matter what it is.”

Plott believes some demand is driven by people wary of food made on a large scale on the other side of the country. They fear it might be more susceptible to contamination.

“We’re pretty safe. Inspections have come a long ways,” he says. “But they still like the fact that it was raised on a local farm. It gives them more peace of mind for their family. And that’s completely understandable.”

As for what’s made Charlanne Farms so successful, Plott lists three things.

“It’s the location, being out on the farm. It gives you that atmosphere,” he says.

The second is the quality of the products and service. “The deli is unique because our employees personally slice the lunch meat and cheese right in front of you,” he says. “They ask if you want it a little thicker or a little thinner. They let the customers sample it.

And the third, he says, is competitive pricing.

“If you can combine the atmosphere with quality and pricing, you’re going to hit a home run and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

Pictured: Wayne Plott is vice president of Charlanne Farms Inc., which his father founded.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.