Beef and Bacon photo

Rod Kuegel, right, recently purchased the former Beef and Bacon Custom Processing building in Beech Grove. He and his son, Clay Kuegel, left, are working to fix the building up after it caught fire in February.

Nine months after a fire damaged Beef and Bacon Custom Processing in Beech Grove, it’s now being renovated under new ownership.

Daviess County farmer Rod Kuegel said he has purchased the McLean County business from Wesley Spurrier.

“We’re in the process of rebuilding it,” Kuegel said. “…We’ve got all of the burnt part torn off. We’ve reconstructed and added to what was there before it burnt. And we’re probably about a month away from acquiring the necessary tools to start processing beef and pork. All the utensils and tools that he had burned up.”

The fire occurred on the morning of Feb. 11. According to reports, Spurrier arrived at Beef and Bacon around 7 a.m. and smelled gas. He turned the gas off, went inside and turned on the light switch, which was when the fire was ignited.

Spurrier suffered from burns on his hands and face, but was not seriously injured. The building received extensive smoke and fire damage.

Since the fire, the region has been without a meat processor.

But Kuegel is looking to change that.

Kuegel decided to diversify after growing his last burley tobacco crop this year.

Kuegel said it was a business opportunity that will allow him to keep jobs for Hispanic workers who had helped him grow and harvest tobacco for years.

“We have 13 guys who come up here from Mexico,” Kuegel said. “Their families are as dependent on the success of my crop as I am. Some of them have been coming up here for 33 years. They’re like family to me; they’re like my sons. We go down to Mexico about once every three years to be with their families on Christmas. It’s an ongoing relationship that a lot of people don’t understand. …I couldn’t just walk away from burley tobacco and leave 13 families without a way to improve themselves.”

With the new venture, Kuegel said there will be some on-the-job education involved.

“I’m hopeful I can transition my workers over to this avenue of labor and do it without missing a beat. …This is going to be a steep learning curve for us but it’s not rocket science. We learned to cut tobacco so I think we can learn this.”

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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