After a dozen years as a Chippewa Falls police officer, Jason Jacobson decided to switch gears and become a business owner.
Last July, he purchased Sokup’s Market, where he now works alongside the prior owner, Peter Sokup.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own business,” Jacobson said. “I worked at Gordy’s for 10 years, through high school and college, and I really liked the grocery business.”
His father and grandfather both owned area businesses, and his brother, Joel, owns a meat market in the town of Lafayette. He learned the Sokups were interested in selling their business, which was founded in 1891 and been in the family for several generations.
“We sat down with Pete and Kathy (Sokup) and they explained everything to me,” Jacobson said. “If I can work with people half as nice as Pete and Kathy, I wanted to make the move. Pete has been one of the best mentors I could have. He wants this business to succeed.”
Jacobson, 39, is a Chippewa Falls native, and graduated from Chippewa Falls High School in 1998.
He earned a degree in criminal justice from UW-Platteville, and worked stints for the Augusta and Hudson police departments before landing a job with the Chippewa Falls Police Department in January 2006.
However, between his years as a patrol officer and his final two years as an investigator, he had seen many deaths and cases that left him mentally drained. In a three-month span, he handled four suicides.
“After a while, it weighs on you,” he said.
So, he left the department in June 2018 and took over the shop.
He definitely prefers the friendly conversation with his customers and knowing they are leaving the store satisfied.
“I love working with people, talking with people,” he said. “If you want to know where the fish are biting, and if the deer are in rut, or gossip around town, this is the place.”
Pete Sokup, 59, has no plans to retire, but his daughters weren’t interested in operating the store in the future. It was founded in 1891 when it was established on Bay Street, and it moved to its present location at 624 N. Bridge St. in 1894. Sokup had owned it for 23 years.
“I was thinking about it, down the road, what we’ll do with it,” Sokup said of the store. “I never wanted to tell employees I was closing. I had such great employees; one was with the Sokup family over 44 years.”
Sokup was impressed with Jacobson immediately.
“I could tell right away he wanted to learn,” Sokup said. “You could tell he was motivated, and was catching on fast.”
Sokup said he wanted to thank his customers not only from Chippewa Falls but from a 30-mile radius. He’s pleased that his recipes will continue to be used, and customers shouldn’t notice a change in service.
Teri Ouimette, Chippewa Falls Main Street executive director, said she’s pleased to have a business like Sokup’s Market as a cornerstone in the downtown shopping district.
“It’s great to have them continue on, and they haven’t changed a thing,” Ouimette said. “We’re super lucky to have so many businesses that carry on their traditions for generations. They do a great job, and their busy.”
Jacobson said he’s heard comments from customers happy he took over.
“So many people came in and shook my hand and said, ‘thank you for keeping it open,’” Jacobson said.
To thank his customers, Jacobson is planning a “customer appreciation days” weekend for Aug. 23-24.
The meat counter comprises 80% to 85% of all sales. Jacobson works alongside Sokup, cutting and preparing the variety of meats.
“We don’t freeze anything,” Jacobson said. “Nothing stays in that cooler longer than 12 hours. We cut all our meat daily. That’s what makes this place so unique.”
Jacobson is enjoying the change in careers, but added that like when he was an officer, every day is different.
“I do the meat cutting, I run the register, I sweep the floor at night,” he said.
Jacobson and his wife, MacKenzie, have been married seven years. They have three children: Evan, 3; Audrianna, 2; and Savannah, seven months.