WARRENSBURG - Jerry Quintal, owner of Oscar's Smokehouse, sat in a four-wheeler Wednesday and watched employees dig tons of spoiled meat out of the charred ruins of what had been days before a flourishing profitable nationally-known business in uptown Warrensburg. Excavators groaned as they cleared the mounds of burnt wreckage of the 9,500-square-feet building that had a half-dozen wings and additions and too many rooms to count, Quintal said.
"We're meeting with federal and state officials to see if we can rebuild making it 'green,'" he said, noting he wanted to help the environment and keep costs down by totally re-engineering the massive meat-smoking operation. "We want to do the 'right thing.'"
Quintal, in turn, is doing the "right thing" for his employees, they noted this week. He's keeping all 14 employees on a full-time payroll, to help rebuild the operation from scratch - a process he estimated would take about three months.
Wednesday, most all of Oscar's employees were helping with the recovery operation stemming from the fire that occurred the previous Friday evening. Quintal had advised two female employees, of child-bearing age, to remain at home to assure their health was protected from potential risks at the fire site. The hefty payroll of Oscar's employees was underwritten by business interruption insurance Quintal had purchased on the advice of his agent, he said, noting with relief that he had just updated his coverage in April. He could have pocketed the insurance money, but he felt his employees and their families needed it more, the workers said.
Quintal explained his decision, while independent heavy equipment operators Don Lambert, Mike Eddy and Bruce Terrell moved their equipment around the site, stacking charred timbers.
"My employees have been dedicated to me for years, and I'm going to make sure I take came of them and their families," he said.
Quintal said most of the specialized equipment has been ordered, and employees were now evaluating theoretical work flow and and determining an efficient layout for a new building. He offered praise for the workers - Dave Decker, Bobby Morehouse, Gabe Egloff, Ernie Brown, Justin Baker, Chris Graves, Sue Lambert, Chris Decker, Lynn Oehler, Carrie Baker, and Tammy Benoit and his son Joq Quintal.
Quintal said he not only plans to rebuild with geo-thermal and solar energy offsetting some of his energy use, but he will be enlarging the retail store while retaining the small-town charm of the building's facade. One upgrade he's planning, he said are new glassed in areas where visitors can watch the curing and preparation processes of the cheeses and meats. Quintal said he was eager to move forward.
"All I can tell you is we're going to have a big grand opening when we're ready to go back into operation," he said.
Lynn Oehler walked around the site, picking up tons of rotting meat, sifting through charred memorabilia, looking for what could be saved.
Until five days earlier, Oehler had routinely prepared beef jerky - 1,000 sticks per day. Her mouth covered with a medical mask to block bacteria, she helped pull out 200 pounds of gourmet turkeys out of the wreckage, all to be accounted for, then destroyed.
"It's great what Jerry's doing for us, so I want to stay here and help," she said. "There's no question I'm going to stay in my job."