Reeve Baily wrote to tell us some good news about Bill The Butcher:
“It’s more like a full dress rehearsal” said CEO J’Amy Owens. “We will have a traditional grand opening in a few more weeks. But Saturday around noon we will indeed be open for business!”
As I waited to ask her a few more questions, deliveries were flying through the front door: fresh chicken and duck eggs, prime steaks, esoteric flavors of craft sodas, not to mention entire counter-tops.
“I’ve been onsite for three weeks and I can feel an honest sense of anticipation, we feel so welcome in Wallingford already,” J’Amy said.
Just then, on perfect cue, a few members of Archie McPhee’s funky crew popped their heads in to welcome the jubilant J’Amy. While she was with them, I spoke with a few Bill the Butcher employees.
Barry Mang, one of the head butchers, said we can expect a lot of selection at Bill’s. They will be grinding their own sausage and hamburger; pre-marinating chicken, beef and pork that’s ready to grill; taking orders for locally-sourced organic turkeys around the holidays. Even offering game meats such as Boar, Venison and Elk, depending on what customers are in the mood for.
“Every neighborhood is different,” said Terri Johnson. “In Woodinville, for example, we offer thirteen different kinds of bacon. Each store’s selections tend to grow and adapt to fit the tastes of the respective neighborhood.”
Now J’Amy was back and I figured I’d better ask my questions quickly before she got pulled away again:
Q: How did you choose Wallingford for your newest location?
A: “We looked at Wallingford and we liked its soul. I think Wallingford cares about sustainability; Wallingford cares about locally produced food; Wallingford cares about doing something that is the opposite of corporate pasteurized bullshit ‘food-opoly’. We’re food activists, and meat activists, and the brand is based on that cause. Everything [in the store’s infrastructure] is reclaimed, reused or recycled and I think those values reflect Wallingford’s values as well…and in a pure tactical sense, there’s lots of parking.”
Q: Design-wise, this space feel less like a butcher’s shop and more like a 4-H Fair in the Midwest. Was that on purpose?
A: “Ranch & Roll, I call it. I love farmers, I love what farmers represent, and I love the things that have sentiment and remind me of farmers and so that’s how this came about…it’s a little funky, it’s a little strange, but it’s always fun.”
Q: Right now, Copper River Salmon is available all around Seattle, and for anyone who has enjoyed it, they know after the first bite why it fetches a premium at the market. Give me a parallel, what single product could someone purchase here that might spoil them for life?
A: Grass fed,-grass-finished steak. No question. We have been in business for four years and we have purchased 2.5 million dollars of meat from around ninety different farmers and ranchers – that means we’ve tried a whole lot of different methods…and being grass fed means feeding and finishing with the right grass with the right amount of protein, in the right climate, just at the right time. Our meat now, is the highest level of grass-fed, grass-finished in the world. We have meat you can’t get anywhere else.
Q: I’m no Mike Wallace but I have to ask you…a few years ago, there was a pretty widely-read article in “The Stranger” that questioned the transparency of your sourcing. How is that addressed today?
A: Well first, you have to understand that it took me three years of research to even figure out how to open a store that features meat from sustainable sources, and that article was written before I even had contracts, and volume with any of those people. So at the time, of course, I wasn’t willing to reveal those sources. But “The Stranger” lied. They wrote a nasty article. It was intended to be sensational. We have published, and have available in all our stores a book we call “Our Food Chain” and page by page, we have clearly listed all our sources for anyone to see – you want to know – here it is. We have made a lot of these businesses, these small sources very successful, we’ve helped make a marketplace for farmers too small to sell to big grocery stores, we literally made a new marketplace. It’s something we are very proud of.
Q: So besides the store front, what other plans do you have?
A: Grilling demos, cutting demos, a lecture series on sustainability, lots of community involvement with local restaurants. However we can elevate the conversation and get people to be aware what really goes into their meat.