Long Live the Meatball King!

Story by Tyler Omoth

It’s Wednesday evening. When you walk into Red’s IGA in Spring Grove, you’re immediately greeted with the aromas of a freshly cooked meal. But it’s not just any meal, and any resident of Spring Grove could identify that scent. 

“Red’s meatballs!”

It’s a meatball supper right in the grocery store. Locals can come in and buy a meal to take home and a portion of the proceeds go directly to benefit a local organization. It’s just one of the ways Pat “Red” Longmire Sr. gives back to the community.

In 1989, Pat was in business with his brother, but was looking for an opportunity to branch out and do his own thing. The local grocery store in Spring Grove was for sale, so Pat, or “Red” as he is frequently called, moved his family to the small town to start their new adventure.

“Even way back in 1989, we were impressed with Spring Grove and all it had to offer,” he says.

Eventually, Pat was able to build a new, larger store on the edge of town. Red’s IGA is a full-service grocery store, but he is known for his secret-recipe meatball mix. A radio ad campaign that has run for years promotes his store and proudly proclaims, “Long live the Meatball King!”

As Pat’s business has grown and prospered, so has his affection for the local community. “In Spring Grove, I think it starts with the school. It’s a great school. We also have a state-of-the-art swimming pool, a theater, and a great bird trail. We have a lot that most smaller towns just don’t have.” 

Pat is active in helping Spring Grove continue grow. His meatball suppers raise money for local organizations. Many churches in the area look forward to their own meatball suppers each year. He tries to help Spring Grove organizations, because they help keep his town and his business booming.

When the radio ads cheer, “Long live the Meatball King!” you’ll hear Pat’s voice break in and say, “Don’t cheer for me, cheer for the Spring Grove Lions basketball team. Way to go!” The next time it may be the library or the pool that gets the shout out. 

Pat has shown that business can survive and even thrive in a small town, but the key might be to put a little back into the town that’s made it possible.