So much can change in 43 years. Businesses succeed and fail, towns change, the economy fluctuates, and people come and go.
But for Rayma Rippelmeyer of Valmeyer, a 43-year employee of Schneider’s Quality Meats, every day of work was a chance to interact with customers and provide exceptional service.
Rippelmeyer, 76, retired from Schneider’s at the end of December, and is now looking forward to her retirement.
“For the last couple of years, I’ve only worked on Friday and Saturday (at Schneider’s),” she said.
Rippelmeyer started working at the meat store in her early 30s, and continued working through the relocation of the Valmeyer store to Waterloo following the Flood of 1993.
“When I first started working, I was so bashful,” she said. “Working with the customers really brought that out of me.”
After the flood, Rippelmeyer said many of the usual Valmeyer customers were scattered around and did not venture to Waterloo to visit the new location.
“The flood affected so many people, and I think rebuilding down in Valmeyer just wasn’t a big enough community anymore for the business,” she said.
Clayton Schneider, the owner of the business at the time, built the new location in Waterloo after the flood and opened by May 1994.
“Clayton really tried to keep going with the store for as long as he could (before the flood) so the people of Valmeyer could keep coming in,” she said. “Nobody thought the levee would actually break.”
Rippelmeyer remembers going to the quarry after getting off work at Schneider’s and helping put down sandbags.
“It was such a big trauma,” she reflected.
She believes bringing the store from Valmeyer to Waterloo has been very good for business.
“A lot of people that lived in some of those farmhouses (in Valmeyer) aren’t there anymore, but I think the school is what kept people there,” she said.
Rippelmeyer said there have been many differences from her first years at Schneider’s in the 1970s to her final year before retirement in 2012.
“When I first started, we were in a tiny store on Main Street in Valmeyer,” she said. “The changes in technology over the years have really been incredible.”
The Valmeyer location had a dry goods department, but Rippel- meyer said the Waterloo location does not.
“There’s changes in products from year to year, just like every- where else,” she said.
Rippelmeyer believes the store has continued to be successful all these years because of the quality of food and service.
“People like (the meat) because it’s not packaged,” she said. “A lot of the products they make themselves as well.”
Current owner Mark Lengacher said he was very fortunate to have Rippelmeyer on board when he bought the business in 2000. She and 11 other employees stayed with him and his new business.
“I couldn’t have had a better group of employees,” Lengacher said. “Rayma’s corporate knowledge will be missed, but I know she’s just a phone call away.”
Rippelmeyer said she enjoyed all aspects of her employment at Schneider’s.
“I loved all of it, or else I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I did,” she said. “Waiting on people was the best… once I got over my bashfulness.”
Rippelmeyer said she will miss her co-workers, many of whom have been with her most of those 43 years at the store.
“I’ve seen so many young people come and go,” she said. “I even have someone that I used to work with that calls me ‘mom’ and brings in a coffee cake for us every now and then.”
Rippelmeyer said she plans to stay busy in her retirement and has some things she has been working on already.
“I sew, so I’ve had some projects to do already,” she said.
Rippelmeyer has been working on alterations for friends and family members, along with making quilts for her eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
“I’m not worried about staying busy,” she said.
She still plans to visit Schneider’s frequently because of her love of meat — especially pork chops.
“Meat is my favorite food, so I’ll definitely be back,” she said.