McLouth natives assume ownership of Emporia firm
New owners of Emporia's Fanestil Meats are both McLouth natives.
Dan and Janeice Smoots, who had been half-owners of the 63-year-old company since 1997, became full owners in July after buying out their partner.
Fanestil Meats, which has 53 employees and operates in a 45,000-square-foot plant, is a no-kill facility that buys boxed beef and pork from packing houses.
Fanestil is a value-added industry, which Dan Smoots compared to "the back end of a grocery store -- only we do the cooking."
Janeice added, "Value added means it's been processed, fully cooked and you take it home and reheat it, it's ready to serve."
And, Dan Smoots said, their products are well-known.
"Our claim to fame at Fanestil Meats is Party Time Ham, and that is a Kansas-known product," Smoots said, adding the company is also known for its bacon, hot dogs and barbecue beans with beef.
Though the business has long sold their products to groceries, their recent new customers include Target groceries and Braum's Ice Cream, which sells a limited selection of groceries. Fanestil products are sold in eastern Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, southwest Missouri and throughout the southwest United States, Smoots said.
The Smoots said their company was working on some new products for an organic beef company. He explained that organic products are free of antibiotics, added hormones and pesticides.
"We're going to start making 40,000 pounds a month for them," said Dan Smoots, a 1972 graduate of McLouth High School. "It's chili, cooked, meatballs and barbecue beef."
The organic products will be sold in stores from coast to coast, he said.
And, as this product gets up and running, it's possible Fanestil will hire more employees.
Currently, Smoots said, employees in the manufacturing operation work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"We like to make it so the employees can be home on the weekends with their families," Smoots said.
Stayed in agriculture
Though he moved away from the family when he went to college at Emporia State University, Dan Smoots has remained in the agricultural field, in some way, all his life.
Dan and his four brothers grew up on a dairy farm 2 1/2 miles east of McLouth. Their parents are Darrel and Ione Smoots.
Everyone in the family worked on the farm, including other boys who lived in the area, some of whom lived with the family as they worked on the farm, Smoots said.
"My mom and dad were a great influence on a lot of young boys growing up during the 1960s and 1970s," Dan said. "The boys knew when they came to the Smoots' farm they were going to work hard, eat good and be treated with respect if they earned it. They also knew they could count on my mom and dad if they ever needed anything even 20 to 30 years later."
Larry Gallagher was one if those boys.
Gallagher, who lives in Tonganoxie, recalled working summers at the Smoots' farm when he was a child growing up in Tonganoxie.
Gallagher said he helped with the farming, dairying and feeding or livestock.
"I'd come to Tongie on the weekends and spend time with my parents, then I'd go back to the farm," Gallagher said. "I just enjoyed being around the farm and that was my opportunity to do it."
And, as Smoots said, Gallagher grew close to Darrell and Ione Smoots.
"He (Darrell) told met that I was like one of his boys because I was around there a lot," Gallagher said.
"They treated me like one of the family."
Back then the family ran a 100-cow dairy and farming operation.
"We'd get the cows in and milk before school every day, then we'd go to school, and get home that night after football practice or basketball practice and we'd milk the cows," Dan Smoots said.
The family also raised crops and cut and hauled hay.
They typified the Midwest farm life.
After graduating from ESU in 1976, Smoots taught elementary school and coached in Emporia for five years. While in college, as well as while he was teaching, he worked at Iowa Beef Processors in Emporia.
Eventually he began working in human resources at IBP, living in various states. Later he worked for Associated Grocers in Kansas City, Kan., and in 1997, he and his wife, Janeice bought Fanestil Meats with a partner.
Like her husband, Janeice (Moore) grew up in McLouth. After high school she became a beautician and worked beauty shops in Tonganoxie and McLouth. She also worked for 20-some years at McLouth's Murrfield Farms.
Janeice is the daughter of Elmer and Frances Moore, McLouth. Dan and Janeice have four children and two grandchildren.