Tied to the Community

The store at Dudley Poultry is state-of-the-art and well appointed. Here you’ll find a variety of unique products. Photo by Chesler Photography

Dudley Poultry in Middlesex, a wholesale and retail supplier of meats and seafood, promotes a culture of kindness

by Libby Cook

“Amidst stories around dinner tables, at celebrations of life and even campfires, we are ever-present in good times and difficult times. We are tied to the gatherings, the stories through our food.” This quote is displayed with pride on the Dudley Poultry website and taken to heart by all Dudley employees. For generations, the workers at Dudley have helped contribute to the region’s food stories by providing high-quality local products and services.

Throughout its history, Dudley has been a core part of the Middlesex community. Established as Emerson Produce Company in 1955 under founder Sandy Emerson, the facility employed over 220 locals at its peak of operation. In 1963, the company was sold to plant employees Donald Dudley and Lloyd Button and transformed into Dudley Poultry. Dudley was sold in 1985 to Peter and Linda Jackson; in 2001, their daughter Teresa Jackson purchased the business and took over as president. Under Jackson’s leadership, Dudley has expanded to include new products and the Finger Lakes Gourmet brand, as well as new machinery and technology in the packaging facilities, retail spaces and offices. Through it all, Dudley has remained committed to prioritizing customer relations and its relationship with the Middlesex community.

The Dudley team makes the effort to know and show appreciation for their customers. Even the workers cutting and packaging the meat are informed about the stories behind the orders to create a more personal connection to customers.

It’s important that our teams understand they’re doing more than just cutting and packaging chicken, and we feel the same way about our customers,” Teresa Jackson says.“We are branding ourselves as part of the families who purchase from us.”

In the Dudley retail store in Middlesex, customers can expect the same individualized treatment. The country-style store is a quaint, charming spot to browse Dudley’s products and its history. A collection of antique pieces display their products, and a TV on the store wall features an historical slideshow of Dudley facilities and workers. Visitors can see photos of the original and modern plant, which is no longer a kill facility. Today, Dudley only cuts and packages already processed meats. Jackson’s father’s shop workbench runs through the center of the store in its untouched, original state.

“In the retail space, it’s about exposure to the uniqueness of the store,” says Dudley’s marketing director, Brenda Archer. “It’s a very different experience when you walk in. We try to bring in that history of Dudley as well.”

Outside the retail realm, Dudley is very active in the community. The business has donated thousands of dollars to the Middlesex fire department, ambulances and school fundraisers. Dudley has donated space and supplies in times of need, including parking lot space for road work crews, and freezer and truck space for other business owners. Last year, Dudley also opened its parking lot for Trunk or Treat, a COVID-safe Halloween experience. These efforts aim to bring the community together and support other local businesses.

“We are big believers in supporting locals,” Jackson says. “We bought new computer software and even office supplies locally. We might pay a little extra to do that, but it’s worth the money to support our locals.”

Collaboration and supporting independent businesses have become more crucial than ever in the past year. The pandemic presented new challenges, mainly problems with supplies, to meat businesses. Dudley faced issues getting specific cuts of pork and chicken, but strong relationships with customers and vendors came to the team’s aid.

“Because we’ve been in business for over 58 years, we’ve developed strong relationships with our vendors,” Jackson says. “We were able to get products when other people may not have been able to.”

Dudley also played a significant role in helping feed the community during the pandemic. The retail store remained open, allowing three socially distanced customers in at a time. News of Dudley’s supply and open doors spread quickly through Facebook, and people traveled from all over to shop.

“I observed this facility feed the community,” says Archer. “What felt like a bit of a panic for people to fill freezers was quite a thing to witness, but Dudley was here with open doors. I was proud to be part of that experience and help people in and beyond our community.”

With an entirely new way of life in the face of COVID-19 came a new way to shop at Dudley as well. The retail store underwent renovations to become three times its original size and updated to a touchless pay system. A new packaging machine introduced smaller quantities of products to the store shelves. In the office, Dudley is relaunching its website to accommodate online ordering for wholesale customers, and phone lines have been updated to reach representatives more quickly. Dudley has also begun sending email newsletters to customers that include sales information and human-interest stories.

“Dudley has really taken on a public relations initiative this year from the perspective that we want to build a relationship with the retail customer,” Archer says.

Though these relationships are developing at a distance due to current circumstances, the Dudley team is happy to remain focused on quality customer service, products and teamwork in a productive and safe environment.

“I really appreciate our customers and also the employees here,” says Jackson. “We treat each other with respect and dignity and uphold what I call a ‘culture of kindness.’ In my strategic plan, that’s my  number one initiative. We’ve done that, and here we are, alive, growing and thriving.”

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