SOUTH HAVEN — Last week Gary Brown stopped at Wolverine Hardware and met what he referred to as “the meat machine.”
But this machine isn’t one used for hardware projects. Rather it’s a double-wide, refrigerated vending machine packed with fresh meats and cheeses produced by Bob’s Processing, a popular butcher shop and catering company in rural South Haven, known for its award-winning meats.
“That’s awesome,” said Brown as he inserted his credit card into the machine, punched a few buttons, and watched a package of beef jerky fall to the bottom of the machine, ready for him to grab.
“I’ve got Bob’s Beef Jerky. I’m golden.”
Brown’s not the only one checking out the rather unusual vending machine that Bob’s Processing recently installed outside the hardware store, in downtown South Haven.
“It’s starting to catch on,” said Bob Filbrandt, who owns Bob’s Processing along with his wife, Judy, and son Scott. “The other night a guy came here at midnight and bought something.”
Bob’s Processing is located about four miles from South Haven. People do make the trek out there to get their favorite meats, but Bob’s Processing’s owners the Filbrandts thought it might be a good idea to bring their products closer to town.
“Everybody’s been wanting it in town,” Judy said.
Bob Filbrandt said vending machines, stocked with fresh, locally produced meats, are somewhat unusual, at least in Michigan.
“There’s only two in Michigan I know of,” he said.
Filbrandt, a member of American Association of Meat Processors, became acquainted with the machines several years ago and more recently when he attended the IFFA international meat trade earlier this spring in Frankfurt, Germany, where he received gold and silver medals for his braunschweiger, ham and bacon.
“In Germany, they’re (meat vending machines) popular,” Filbrandt said.
Filbrandt purchased a German-made Regiomat meat vending machine. A similar one was displayed at the American Association of Meat Processors convention in 2017 and garnered a lot of interest, according to an article published by Meat + Poultry online magazine.
Anthony Baechle of Stuewer GmbH, who exhibited his Regiomat meat vending machine, explained in the article, “Many German and European butchers have several of these machines. Some have them near their retail shops. But many place them with their products at locations like schools or universities, outside of liquor stores, in kiosks, marinas, campgrounds and other places where hikers or other people on the move can get those meats.”
Bob’s Processing’s vending machine is located right across the street from South Haven’s farm market, downtown businesses, restaurants and marinas.
“It’s a good location and Doug has been great to us,” said Bob Filbrandt, referring to Doug Landers, the owner of Wolverine Hardware, who agreed to allow the vending machine to locate outside his store.
Right now the vending machine’s biggest seller is Bob’s thick-cut bacon.
Filbrandt, who checks and restocks the machine on a daily basis, said he intends to add more meat products to the machine in the future, depending on customer’s preferences.
Right now the machine is stocked with bacon, beef jerky, flavored brats, smoked sausage, a variety of cheeses and lunch meats, and smoked pork and salmon. In the future, though, Bob’s hopes to add steaks and smokehouse chicken.