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Raber Packing Shows Off Progress On New Facility

Nearly two years after a devastating fire, a longtime family-owned business is getting closer to reopening in West Peoria.

Work on the new Raber Packing Co. facility at 3000 W. Farmington Road remains on schedule, said owner Buddy Courdt. During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Courdt said an opening is likely later this year or in early 2021.

“We would love to be open for the holidays. Is that possible? I really can’t say at this time,” said Courdt. “Will people be able to depend on us for a Thanksgiving ham? I can’t guarantee that for sure. Will they have it for Christmas? I can’t guarantee that for sure.

“There’s a possibility of doing some partial occupancy so we can start working with the local farmers sooner than we have the retail store open. … We’re shooting for this year, but I’m not going to be that unhappy with myself if we get it done by January.”

The original Raber’s was destroyed by a massive fire in November 2018. Courdt said the previous building was built in 1954 and had some equipment dating back to the 1920s.

“The equipment will be a lot newer and a lot bigger, so we should be able to produce a lot more in a timely factor,” said Courdt. “I think there’s going to be a huge demand for the product and the local community is waiting for it. I’m hoping we can keep up with that demand.”

Courdt said rebuilding and opening a new facility has generated excitement for the community and for his family.

“My grandpa’s always been excited about getting this place rebuilt too, because he saw the first place getting built,” he said. “I wish I knew what day we’ll be walking in there and all the answers to all the questions. But at this time there’s so many things that can happen with a project like this.”

The new building will feature a banquet hall in the front along with the processing area and retail shop with an open-air meat counter.

“I think this is going to be something that’s really neat,” said Courdt. “It’s not going to be something that you can go anywhere else and really see something like this when it’s all said and done.”

Courdt said the two-year process at the new site included removing nearly four acres of trees. 

“The steps that it’s taken to get here, there could be a thousand when you think about everything we’ve done since the fire” he said.

Courdt said insurance was able to cover his employees’ wages for a year. He said “the future looks really good” regarding plans to bring those employees back and possibly add more.

He said crews have been able to keep the project on target while working through COVID-19 safeguards. noting he’s eager to resume helping local farmers get their animals to local markets.

“We feel like we can really help in this region when we do get open and help provide meat for the local area,” he said, adding he thinks the new Raber’s can become a catalyst for the future of the Farmington Road area.

“I think this facility is going to draw people from all over the region,” said Courdt. “This is going to be a central Illinois business; I think people will come here from an hour away and I think that will help all retail, all businesses down here.”

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