Tavistock native Bruce Wettlaufer may have just sold his business after 10 years, but he’s sticking around to help new owner Ben Schelhaas succeed as best he can. Schelhaas recently purchased the iconic Best Little Pork Shoppe and while he realizes the history behind the name, he’s also looking to make some exciting changes.
“A lot of people would recognize my parents and me from the former Forest Motel in Stratford. I was running that with them for five years before the fire that happened back in 2021. Before that I was a cook for eight or nine years at restaurants in Stratford, Guelph, and out west with the Fairmont chain.” Schelhaas says he worked at Ziebart in Stratford for a few years before the opportunity came along to purchase the store in Shakespeare.
He says while much will remain the same, he is looking forward to bringing in some new products. “The existing customer base is big. It's awesome to have that and come into a business that’s already established. People can expect to not see anything removed from our stock. We are going to keep it going with all of the local pork products we have especially the sausage and smoked chops.” He adds some exciting new products are coming from a Perth County water buffalo farm. “Right now, I am working with Tenderbuff near Sebringville. I will be bringing in water buffalo burgers, sausages, summer sausage, pepperettes, and also water buffalo mozzarella and gouda cheeses.” He is also hoping to get some local lamb products eventually to add to the store’s product line.
While many prospective business owners spend time researching a business to purchase, Schelhaas says he didn’t have that luxury of the time to do that. “The deal came together in four days, from seeing the operation to putting in an offer. The business is coming up on 30 years old so more than anything I saw an opportunity to make some improvements, to expand a little bit, and to modernize a business that had been sitting as is for some time with an injection of younger ownership.”
One modern aspect he plans to bring to The Best Little Pork Shoppe is social media, something not utilized in the history of the business. “I am going to try and push that quite a bit, at least weekly but hopefully daily to get to the younger customer base. I know there are a lot of locals who come here but they are aging as well so it’s the only way to get to those young people.” He adds another plan is to sell smokers, pellet, and charcoal grills as an addition to his array of expanding retail options.
Schelhaas and his wife Natalie were just married in November which he says hasn’t left any time for a honeymoon after making the offer for the business in October. “I am planning to get away for two weeks at some point and that was in our agreement that Bruce would work for me while we go on our honeymoon, but we aren’t sure when that is going to be yet.” Schelhaas adds Wettlaufer continues to be a tremendous asset helping transition the business. “He’s in here every day at 9 a.m. ready to go and show me how everything works, who to talk to, who we order from, all that good stuff. He's been really supportive and is helping with the shift.” He adds Wettlaufer wants to see the business continue to thrive and succeed. “He’s been giving out my business card out like you wouldn’t believe to people.”