MILLSTADT, Ill. (KTVI) – An Illinois town rooted in German heritage is merging Halloween candy and traditional German fare — and there’s a huge demand for it.
Schubert’s Smokehouse and Meat Packing Co. in Millstadt has been making Halloween-inspired bratwursts for six years. It started with gummy bear-infused bratwurst, and then candy corn-infused brats were added to the menu about three years ago.
Schubert’s has been in business for over 43 years. Owner David Kossina took over the establishment six and a half years ago, after he’d worked there for five.
The gummy bear brats were on the Schubert’s menu before Kossina took over. They had been specially made for a customer in Chicago who would order them from the previous owner. But Kossina continued to fill that order, and soon began selling it to new customers, as well.
“The gummy bear actually melts throughout the bratwurst,” Kossina said. “We probably make 600 to 700 pounds a year.”
Schubert’s actually began selling the brats to regular customers over five years ago, although Kossina had to get U.S. Department of Agriculture approval before Schubert’s could make the gummy bear brats in bulk.
Kossina was inspired to add candy corn brats to Schubert’s menu about three years ago, after passing a candy corn display in a store just before Halloween. He said he wondered if the candy corn would melt into a brat, so he made about six pounds and had his employees taste them. Afterward, he knew he was on to something.
If someone likes candy corn, they’ll like these brats, according to Kossina.
In the fall, Schubert’s makes about 300 to 350 pounds of candy corn brats, and they sell out every year.
Kossina said other shops in Wisconsin that make the gummy bear and candy corn brats have had a similar experience.
“In me talking with them, they’ve had the same success that we’ve had,” Kossina said.
Kossina said Schubert’s is currently trying to come up with a specialty Thanksgiving brat. Outside of their specialty items, Schubert’s best-seller is their natural-casing 100% beef little smoky.
Before becoming the owner of Schubert’s, Kossina said he worked in financial services, specializing in helping small business owners create exit strategies.
“So I approached the previous owners, and they didn’t have an exit strategy. They had three kids that I thought would take over the business,” Kossina said. “So I found out that I was their exit strategy.”
Kossina worked for Larry Schubert for five years and learned to make everything in the sausage kitchen. The Kossinas eventually took over the business from the Schuberts, and now two of Kossina’s sons work there, too.
“We’ll transition it to the two boys when I’m ready to retire, which is not anytime soon,” Kossina said. “I kind of view myself down the road like Phil on [the TV series] ‘Duck Dynasty.’ I’ll come in, mess things up for a while and then leave and let the two boys fix it.”
In keeping with the strong German heritage of Millstadt, Kossina’s grandparents on both his mother’s and his father’s sides are from Germany. He added that the home he grew up in is located just four miles from Millstadt, in Columbia, Illinois.