ELBURN – Steve Srock was one of many shoppers rushing up to enthusiastically greet Janelle Ream on Tuesday morning.
Srock, the pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church, said he has been shopping at Ream's Meat Market for 35 years. Tuesday's experience was different because it was the first day at the store's new location at 250 S. Main St., Elburn. He smiled and congratulated Janelle Ream, who runs the shop with her husband, Randy.
"This is wonderful," Srock said, looking around at a store that featured three checkout lines, roomy aisles and items on display much more prominently than at the market's previous location just a few blocks north. "I love it. This is absolutely fabulous."
It was a move that was nearly a year in the making. In May 2015, the Reams purchased the former Papa G's location, and they spent months gutting the building and reworking it as the new home of the award-winning Elburn market. On Tuesday, Janelle Ream proudly pointed out features such as barn wood in the front entrance and a tin ceiling near the fresh meat display. Customers can park right outside of the shop. There also is a lot more room in the production area.
"When we get 700 turkeys delivered for Thanksgiving, we will have a place to put them," she said, adding that last year, it was necessary to rent refrigerated trucks to use as storage space.
She credited the project manager, Mike Stoffa, for his work.
Mark McMahon, who has worked as a compliance officer at Ream's for eight years, said having a larger space will be an improvement. He said the storage area alone would be significant, but there is so much more than that.
The new shop is nearly twice as large as the old one. It has allowed the Reams to better display the items for sale. At the old store, Janelle Ream said, customers might feel crowded or rushed.
"A man asked, 'Are you going to sell fish at the new store?' We've always sold fish," she said.
It will mark a significant change for Ream's. The old location is in the heart of Elburn's downtown area, and the Reams also purchased a parking lot across the street. Janelle Ream said there are several options for what to do with the old location. For the time being, she said it might be kept open to continue the summer hot dog cart tradition. She said there has been interest from some about leasing the space. The old location now displays a sign indicating that the store has moved.
On Tuesday, Randy Ream stood in a new, roomier office and called it "a long year" since the store was purchased.
"I can't wait to make sausage," he said. "No more hammers and nails."
Maple Park resident Jodie Driscoe said she has worked at Ream's for 18 years. She runs the deli. On Tuesday, she noted the best part of the opening was "seeing the customers' reaction. … A lot of people are just very excited about how the store looks."
"I'm very excited," Driscoe said, adding she was "kind of sad, too. The old store, we had been there a long time."
Stewart Ream, 22, is the Reams' youngest son. He said he recently completed his culinary degree, and Janelle Ream said he will be implementing more food items that will be sold. He showed off a barbecue cooker he said was brand new. He said there would be sandwiches and pizza, "and we'll step up our Italian beef game."
"Everything we can do, we want to do," Stewart Ream said.
Anticipation had been building for months as the new location began to take shape. Stewart Ream said shoppers had been coming to the front door, expecting it would be open despite a sign saying the market was coming soon. McMahon added that the Papa G's building had been vacant for more than two years, so there was an extra level of excitement in Elburn.
"The anticipation for the town was as much as it's been for us," McMahon said.