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A year after re-opening, business going well for locker plant

From left, Jeremy Vandermay, Whitman Briard, Bev Boutiette, Brandon Marsh and Amanda Briard take a break from work at the NY Mills Locker Plant on Friday.

What a difference a year makes.

At about this time last year, Amanda and Whitman Briard were getting ready to re-open the Mills Locker Plant.

In July 2010, the Briards lost the plant to a fire that destroyed the entire building.

It didn't take them long, though, to decide that they were going to start the business back up.

"Everything happened so fast," Amanda said. "We tell people that maybe we should've taken a trip (after the fire) to think about it."

Instead, it only took about a week for them to decide that they wanted to start again.

In part, the Briards wanted to get another chance with the plant because they felt there's a need for it in the area.

"The locker plant is becoming a dying thing," Amanda said. "There aren't as many farmers as there used to be. Just the fast pace of society has changed so much."

So, after several months of preparation following the fire last year, the Briards officially opened the plant for business on Nov. 1, just in time for deer hunting season.

Now, nearly a year later, the two are happy with how far the plant has come, and with what's in store for the future.

The biggest change of all, Amanda said, is the plant's retail store, which officially opened in March.

Lately, they have added syrups, jams and jellies to the large selection of meat, including brats, hamburger, jerkey and much more.

At first, Amanda said, having the extra space for the retail store was a bit of an adjustment.

Now, because they've continued to add more products, they've seen an increase in their customer base as well.

"We've added more of our products, and we keep on expanding in that aspect," she said.

Meeting people who come in to check out the store has been an added benefit.

"It's fun to meet people coming in from the lakes who didn't know we were here before," Amanda said.

Also new this year, Amanda said, is that the plant has signed up to be USDA-inspected in January. This means that any of the meat processed at the plant can be sold throughout the United States, and not just in the store, as it is now.

Until now, the plant had only been state-inspected.

"That'll be a huge change," Amanda said. "This way, we'll be able to sell meat anywhere in the U.S."

Also new over the summer was a catering service the plant offered. The Briards would cook and prepare meat for parties or gatherings using a hog roaster that is also available for rent.

"That was a lot of fun," Amanda said.

The Briards and the other employees at the plant are actively gearing up for the coming deer season, their second in the new facility.

"We're excited about it," Amanda said. "That's usually when we have the big rush, and we should be ready for it."

This season, the Briards will be participating in a state venison donation program. Hunters can bring in their extra venison to be processed at the plant and then donated to the NY Mills Food Shelf.

For hunters who find themselves with too many deer, "it works out nice to have this option," Amanda said.

The Mills Locker Plant is open Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

The plant processes many kinds of animals, including bear, waterfowl, deer and more, as well as other more processed items, such as jerky.

Or, "if there's something someone wants and we don't have it," Amanda said, "we'll try to make it. That's what we're all about."