Longtime Stillwater family food business sells last property – Twin Cities

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As of this past February, Brine’s Market & Deli is no longer a family-run business. But don’t worry — customers’ deli favorites aren’t going anywhere.

John “Bud” Brine opened Brine’s Quality Meat Market in 1958. From there, the family business grew; they opened another Stillwater location with a bar and restaurant in 1974 and ran a restaurant in St. Paul for 14 years.

John Brine passed away in 2010. As his son Mark Brine looks back on what his father built, he says it’s truly been a family affair from the very beginning.

“We always say our dad’s favorite piece of equipment was the milk crate; that way, us kids could stand on them to reach the meat grinder or skim beer,” Mark Brine said.

All six of the Brine siblings were involved with the family business over the years. Mark Brine, along with his sister Polly Hoy, ran the meat market together until January.

“When people ask when I started working at Brine’s, I say ‘at birth,’ ” said Hoy.

As a girl, Hoy worked at the Brine’s market candy counter, whipping up malts. Over the years, she’s done everything from the bookkeeping and management to the baking and cooking.

“When you’re running a small business, you’re the person who handles all of it,” Hoy said.

Hoy attributes the 64 years of success to the passion and work ethic of her father, her siblings and all the grandchildren and spouses who helped out along the way.

As the Brine siblings began to retire one by one, the family began to let go of the businesses. First, they let go of the St. Paul location. In 2018, they sold their Stillwater restaurant at 219 S. Main St.

Last year, Brine and Hoy decided to retire and sell Brine’s Market & Deli, the last of the family franchise. Within five weeks of being put on the market, Scot DeStasio and Corey McCracken of Stillwater Food Group bought it.

Former Brine’s Market & Deli owners Mark Brine and Polly Hoy. at left, with new owner Scot DeStasio. The business in Stillwater has changed hands after 64 years. (Courtesy of Polly Hoy)

“We’re about five months in, and the transition has been going well,” DeStasio said. “They had a great team in place before we got here, and they’ve helped make everything easier.”

So far, barely anything has changed since ownership shifted. And DeStasio says the plan is to keep it that way.

“Ultimately, the Brines built a great business. Our only intention is to improve what is already in place,” he said.

Stillwater Food Group has invested in some updated equipment and is working to expand the locally sourced produce section of the market. But as for the signature items in the deli case?

“They know not to fix what’s already working,” Brine said. “All our brat recipes and our salads that we are known for have not changed. We told them there would be a mutiny if they ever did that.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Brine’s Market spills on story behind the perky pig in the deli case

With the last of the franchise off their hands, Hoy and Brine are reflecting on the family memories that came along with the business: walking in the parade at Lumberjack Days, hosting bocce ball tournaments in the dead of winter and using the restaurant kitchen to cook the family Thanksgiving dinner.

“It’s not always easy working with your family, but the memories we have together is the most rewarding part of running the business,” Hoy said.

They both already miss the daily interactions at the meat counter with their customers.

“Our customers watched us grow up, and we watched them grow up, too,” said Brine.

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