smoked turkey, thanksgiving table

A smoked turkey from Greenberg Smoked Turkeys, based in Tyler. Photo courtesy Greenberg Smoked Turkeys.

On Friday, Nov. 6, employees at Greenberg Smoked Turkeys in Tyler were spending the busy day fulfilling orders for the company’s famed Thanksgiving turkeys. That night, an explosion in one of the freezer facilities caused a fire and brought the busiest time of year to a halt.

“We lost 87,000 turkeys, our entire shipping operation, and two freezer facilities,” says Sam Greenberg, third-generation owner of the company. “It is something I never would have expected. So, we are turning all our efforts toward immediate clean-up and rebuilding, and getting the facility ready for 2021.”

No one was in the building when the explosion occurred, and there is no cost estimate yet for the damage.

fire, damage, freezer, Greenberg Smoked Turkeys

The company posted a photo of the damage to its Facebook page on Sunday. Photo courtesy Greenberg Smoked Turkey.

Greenberg Smoked Turkeys experienced an increase in sales this year, but will have to refund customers for prepaid turkeys that were not delivered. The company ordered turkeys for this season last November, and had plenty of turkeys to sell, even planning on-site sales (with appropriate precautions) closer to the holiday.

Despite the damage and abrupt halt to operations for the remainder of the year, Greenberg remains upbeat.

“Thank goodness my employees are all healthy and happy,” he says. “And as sure as I know the sun will come up tomorrow, I know we will have the plant ready to go next September when we typically start smoking turkeys.” The plant is a block away from the freezer buildings that burned.

Even though many families are projected to have smaller holiday gatherings due to the pandemic, for a lot of Texans, it just isn’t Thanksgiving without a Greenberg smoked turkey.

“We are in the comfort food business,” Greenberg says. “People look at our turkeys as tradition and comfort. That comes from being around for 81 years. We have fantastic customers. Our biggest problem right now is we won’t be able to help facilitate their holiday tables.”

Fans and longtime customers will just have to wait until next year for their fix.

The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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