SUTTON, Neb. — There are trucks and livestock trailers lined all the way up to Highway 6 from the Sutton Livestock Barn. Inside the kitchen area of the barn, Grandma Gail Kimminau is frying liver and onions.
“People who love it, love it. People who don’t, don’t,” she joked to the men in work coats, jeans and boots making their way inside to wait for the Friday sale, and received more “thank yous” than “no, thank yous” for frying up her specialty.
“That’s all I make — liver and onions. Kim and Ed make the rest of the food all week. I am just here to serve it on sale day,” Gail said.
While Gail serves her specialty and everything else from pies to other baked goods, Kim Kimminau is helping her “side-kick” Laureen Korb in the office area. Korb has been working at the facility for nearly 20 years, along with her husband, LaRayne. Then Kim’s husband, Ed, (Gail’s son) makes his way through the door. He doesn’t have much time because there are customers to serve.
“My phone rang 30 times before 11 a.m. today,” Ed said. “I enjoy it. Kim and I saw this as an opportunity, a business that could be brought back to life.”
“He is the king of phones,” Kim said. “It’s all about customer service for us.”
The Kimminaus took over the Sutton Livestock Barn in October 2015. Dallas, their son, is the auctioneer and much of the impetus behind taking on the venture.
“Early in 2015, the barn came up for sale,” Ed said. “Dad and I discussed it and proposed the idea to mom. It took a bit of persuading, but after a few months she agreed to give the idea a shot.”
Not long after deciding to pursue purchase of the sale barn, Dallas, who was serving in the National Guard, headed to Kuwait.
“We told Dallas when he came back, we would have the sale barn waiting for him, and we did,” Kim said.
Dallas attended auction school at the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa after returning from Kuwait. Now he works at UPS part time as a pre-load supervisor and commutes every day to the family business.
“The sale barn just seemed like something good for the family,” Dallas said. “Working with Mom and Dad every day has been a good thing. Dad has always had livestock and it is something I grew up loving.”
Their 8-year-old son, Noah, is often found at his father’s and brother’s side, learning the business. “Noah’s the CEO,” Kim said.
None of the Kimminaus are shy of work. Ed continues his job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the meat inspection area while working at the barn in some capacity seven days a week. Kim also serves as a pharmacy technician and does the books for the livestock barn, as well as working there at least a couple days a week. The Kimminaus also raise their own cattle and sheep.
Cattle and hog sales are held every Friday, averaging 500 to 700 head a sale this time of year, and around 200 in the summertime. They also have sheep and goat sales one Saturday a month and a special Red Angus sale in January once a year on a Saturday. Their sales are also featured on LMA (Livestock Marketing Association) online auctions.
“We are the only sale barn in a 60-mile radius and have people come to us from a 75-mile radius,” Ed said. “Every day you have to be willing to change to meet the demands of the public and to out-do the competition. We appreciate all our customers. If you don’t do business with your local people, you’re going to lose them.”
Ron Griess has watched countless customers and livestock pass through the Sutton Livestock doors since he began working there in 1973. Today, Griess serves as the clerk.
“I grew up on a farm and my dad, Simeon told me one day, ‘You are going to the sale barn tomorrow and work.’ That’s where it all started,” Griess said. “I have worked every part of this barn. When I started, I loaded out cattle with a gentleman who was 90 years old. The best part are the friendships. I have seen many sale barns close, too, that makes places like this all the more important.”
Others agree it’s all about relationships.
“It started out being a way to get out of the farmhouse and away from the kids for a day,” Korb said. “It turned into something I truly love. I enjoy the atmosphere and I have seen many kids grow up through the years. My husband and I farm and have a cow-calf operation, so the barn is very important to us in that way, too.”
“We just want to keep it going,” Dallas said. “Small town barns are a dying thing. If Dad decides to hand it down, I would gladly carry on the tradition to keep it alive.”
You can follow Sutton Livestock on Facebook.
Kerry Hoffschneider can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.