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On October 1, 1974 Mike and Betty Jo Prasek purchased Hillje Grocery, which was a typical small town store. This venture was the conception of Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse. Mike's parents, Adolph and Allyne Prasek, were in the grocery business while Mike was growing up, so this was a natural place for him. Hillje Grocery was a combination grocery store, meat market, saloon, and feed store. The Prasek's desire and the help of many friends and loyal customers has been the driving force behind the growth and success of the business.
The Prasek's operated the store by themselves, Betty Jo during the day and Mike in the evening after he got off of his other job. After being in the business for a few months, the Praseks began to notice the inconsistency of the sausage they were purchasing. This led to the production of their first smoked product, Pork & Beef Sausage. Initially, 50 pounds of sausage was made in their meat market every other week. The production has increased a bit since then but the same quality is still stressed with each batch of sausage produced at Prasek's.
As time progressed, Beef Jerky was added to the line of smoked meats. Story has it that the Prasek family was "burned out" on eating round steak. Betty Jo had exhausted every round steak recipe known to the household cook. You are probably wondering, "What is the deal with round steak?" A hindquarter of beef reaps a substantial number of round steaks in relation to other cuts of meat causing an abundance of round steaks in the meat market. As this became unfit for sale it would always end up on the Prasek's dinner table. This should explain the "burn out." Now, you are probably asking, "What does all this have to do with beef jerky?" The round steak makes excellent jerky so this was a perfect solution to the problem and in hindsight, the Praseks can consider this the best problem they ever had. Since then, the Beef Jerky has become one of the top sellers of all the smoked meats and has been rated one of the top jerky in the United States by Saveur which is a magazine of fine foods.
As time went on, the hometown folks as well as commuters of Highway 59 continued to patronize Hillje Grocery. In the late 70's, Mike and Betty Jo were thrown a curve ball, when Highway 59 was made into four-lanes and the bypass curved around the store location. They already had plans to build a new store on the new highway but finding the funds to do it was a problem. The Prasek's have said they never knew that it took money to borrow money but after enough persistence and great friends, the new store became a reality. Land purchased from Betty Jo's parents, R.J. and Betty Strnadel provided a perfect location less than a mile from the old store.
On March 1, 1981, Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse opened on the corner of Highway 59 and Strnadel Road. The store was a typical convenience store with a bit more. Luncheon meat and fresh Bar B Que were added to the existing fresh meat market and smoked items. The bakery was started in 1981 when Mike and Betty Jo's son, Mike Jr., needed braces on his teeth. To help finance the expense, Betty Jo started baking and selling strudels. From then forward, Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse was in the bakery business. Each morning starting about 4:00 a.m., Betty Jo would bake from scratch a variety of products that became favorites of all the customers.
To facilitate the growth of the business, several additions to the building and the staff were made throughout the years. In 1986 Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse implemented State Inspection of the smoked meat processing area and began to wholesale the sausage products. Direct Store Delivery and Brenham Wholesale Company were the first means of distribution. In 1993, the first official mail order brochure was printed and the mail order part of the business began full swing.
Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse experienced steady growth for the years to come. In 1997, the largest of expansions was made when the store size was doubled. A 7,000 square foot retail area was added to help serve the customers more comfortably and in a timely manner. The entire facility is now about 15,000 square feet and growing.
The year 1997 also brought forth the addition of R.J.M. Distributing who distributed exclusively for Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse. On October 1, 2004, Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse purchased R.J.M. Distributing and formed Prasek's Distributing, LLC. Prasek's Distributing now services over 400 accounts where numerous smoke meat products are sold.
November 1, 2002, the darkest day in the history of Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse, brought the passing of Betty Jo. The loss of a family member in a family operated business can be devastating because there is a two-fold loss, first, the loss of a spouse, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother and secondly, the lost of a loving and caring leader. With support from all the staff and by pulling together, the Prasek family will continue Betty Jo's legacy for years to come.
Today, Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse is still family owned, is one of the largest employers in Wharton County and has become a landmark in the community. With about 45 different smoked meat items, 35 different fresh baked bakery items, a specialty meat market, a full line deli, specialty items, and all types of convenience items, Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse is a one stop shop for anything you may be needing in the line if food. All the different wholesale distribution channels now handles about 500 accounts around the area while the mail order business has a mailing list of about 7,000 customers. This web site widens the customer base reaching areas never reached before. Click on the different links to find out more about Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse.
Every effort is made to provide the best quality products for the consumer. At Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse, we realize the customers are attributable for the success we have had over the years, and for that we offer them a GREAT BIG THANKS.