Business Spotlight: TJ's Country Corner MAHTOWA
August 4, 2023
TJ's Country Corner is the hub of the Mahtowa community and a business that's hard to pigeonhole. Owners Renee and Glenn Gaffney love the support they receive from the community and they like to help out whenever and however they can.
TJ's always offers delicious food, great conversation, and a rich history in Mahtowa. They have a little bit of everything. Their Facebook page lists them as a convenience store but they're much more than that.
Known for their slogan - "Our Wurst is Best!" - TJ's meat market still uses the tried and true old-time recipes, and a few new ones, to make more than 40 varieties of brats. Their Minnesota-raised beef is cut and processed by TJ's own meat cutter. In addition to brats, they also make a variety of specialty sausages, hot dogs, braunschweiger and more. It's not uncommon for travelers to pull off of Interstate 35 and fill an entire cooler with the potato sausage TJ's is famous for.
Food is an essential part of the business, which includes a well-stocked grocery store, and a deli serving brats, hot dogs and 12 flavors of ice cream. TJ's also offers a variety of homemade meals such as lasagna, manicotti, meatloaf, pulled pork, tater tot hotdish and take-and-bake pizza. All are offered in a variety of portion sizes.
There's a little bit of everything at TJ's, including gas, oil, grocery, beer and liquor, health and beauty items, firewood, DNR licenses and more. If you need something notarized, or need to send a fax, they're happy to provide those services too.
TJ's regularly hosts events throughout the year that bring people together. Their popular chicken swap and farmers market on the second and fourth Saturday of the month (weather permitting), sees all manner of vendors gathering at TJ's to offer chickens, fresh eggs, produce, craft items, and eclectic flea market items too, all without any vendor fees charged.
The biggest event of the year is the Rukkus at the Rat Rod Rendezvous, held annually 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. over Labor Day weekend. "Shine" Saturday features the traditional classic cars, street rods, muscle cars, trucks and bikes, while "Rust" Sunday features rat rods, rat bikes, and burnout and muffler rap contests. The event also features a swap meet/flea market and live music each afternoon. For the third year in a row, the Border Town Betties pin-up contest will be held on Sunday.
More often than not, it is the community organizing the events and TJ's providing their band shell and the space to host it. They've hosted graduations and anniversary parties and numerous fundraisers for a community member who needs a little help. An Aug. 26 event is planned for 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. to support local resident Dale Ostby.
The community comes together at TJ's for National Night Out in August. On Sept. 11 there is a community service to commemorate the events of 9/11 as well as to thank and honor our military, law enforcement and emergency responders. During the Christmas holiday season, TJ's is the site of a live nativity scene.
"Awesome stuff happens all the time," Renee said. For example, a gentleman who was celebrating his 90th birthday by biking 90 miles came in from the Munger Trail to warm up (see photo, above). His hands were so cold he didn't know if he'd be able to make it. Renee took care of him, and he was on his way. One Sunday, a traveler pulled in with a flat tire and was wondering where he could get it fixed. A customer pulled in and changed it for him.
On Aug. 12, TJ's will serve as one of the many exchange locations for the Ragnar relay race, where 300 teams of 12 will be running from the state capitol in St. Paul to Duluth.
This past Thanksgiving, with the help and generosity of its customers, TJ's partnered with the United Way, Moose Lake Food Shelf and area churches to distribute 300 Thanksgiving meals.
"We see cool stuff every day, and it's an honor to help," Renee said. "That's small-town awesomeness. We have such an amazing community that supports us. They step right up to help bring people together, overcome hardships, celebrate blessings and strengthen our Mahtowa area community."
Renee and Glen say, "Come visit us, we would love to see you."