Mustard maker Boetje's doesn't let Illinois economy slow it down
Boetje’s Foods has been as steady as a rock for 128 years.
Or maybe that's a stone — as in stone ground mustard.
The Rock Island fixture, which has lasted from the early 20th century to the digital age, is known for its unique brand of tangy brown mustard.
At the Boetje’s Foods storefront on 12th Street, you can find the classic sauce alongside stuff like a spicy red cocktail sauce called "sea sauce" and Barbecue Barrel Aged Boetje’s, as well as T-shirts, hats, aprons and other merchandise.
“This is our world headquarters on Rock Island,” owner Will Kropp told Rock Island Today.
Kropp runs the single location with his son Harrison, his wife, Jane, and a few other part-time workers who help with production. The mustard, he said, gets made in the back of the facility.
Businesses all across Illinois have struggled in the most recent economic climate, but Kropp's main difficulty isn't so much with sales as with getting his products in stores.
“The biggest challenge for us is trying to expand,” Kropp said.
Kropp said local groceries and other grocery chains often charge large amounts of money for shelf space. Restaurant partnerships can also be a challenge.
“Some of the restaurants put French’s or some other product on their table, instead of a local product that their customers would enjoy,” Kropp said.
But business is expanding, he said, and has formed a much wider footprint across America than it had in 1983, when his family purchased it from the original Boetjes.
At that time, he said, the business served seven states; now, the product is offered in 30, including areas of the East Coast and Southwest. The mustard, he said, can be found in T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores in some pretty barbecue-friendly states: Virginia and North Carolina.
“That has been wonderful,” Kropp said. “People see it there, they like it — they can order it off the website.”