Bringing Back the Neighborhood Butcher

Here's how The Meat Hook makes a splash in local communities and differentiates itself from national superstores.
Senior reporter, The Huffington Post
May 10, 2012

The neighborhood butcher shop has been a part of American culture for over a hundred years, but with the rise of big grocery stores and massive supermarkets, the competitive market has never been tougher.

Justin Rosberg, co-founder of The Meat House, has set out to revive the neighborhood butcher. In the beginning, Rosberg and his business partner Jason Parent began looking at what options they had, and narrowed it down to a restaurant or retail store. They chose retail, because they figured the "opportunity to scale was certain," says Rosberg.

Now, The Meat House has 30 locations in 10 states with more than 300 employees. The company raked in $43 million in revenue in 2011, according to Rosberg.

How's he doing it when Walmart Supercenters and huge regional supermarkets are blanketing the country?

Involving the Local Community

The Meat House seeks to modernize the old local butcher and grocer experience, and to do that, it has to be actively involved in all the local communities that it's in.

As early as 20 weeks before a new store opens, Rosberg and his crew start talking to the key decision makers in the community—both businesses and charities.

"It's as simple as providing gifts at an auction, getting involved in breast cancer awareness, raising money for a new sports team or supporting an athletic event," Rosberg says. "It starts the dialogue and builds brand awareness."

Plus, The Meat House tries to source locally as much as it can. They have fresh seafood and can identify the caption and region of the boat the food came from. It's like an "ongoing, operational farmer's market," Rosberg says.

Differentiation Through Customer Service

The Meat House had to give people a reason to shy away from the big, cheap stores and come to its local shops. This made them focus heavily on providing an experience that's hard to find anywhere else.

"The foundational piece of our success is we view ourselves as a hospitality company," Rosberg says. "It's about treating every day like a grand opening."

Dedication to the Lifestyle

Rosberg worked at Bear Stearns in Boston for three years, but eventually decided to take a risk and leave the job to become an entrepreneur.

"I had a great experience at Bear, but I truly had the entrepreneurial bug," Rosberg says. "I wanted to get back to working with the public."

The Meat House has been successful so far, but it has taken an incredible amount of work, especially for the co-founders. But Rosberg has found ways to cope with the endless work hours.

"Think of [the business] as who you are," says Rosberg. "Then the lifestyle you lead will be immediately rewarding."

What's Next for The Meat House?

Rosberg has growth on his mind. After all, there's a near endless amount of small communities across the country.

"We're very much a fluid concept where we react to local areas," says Rosberg. "Any time you build it to last forever, your options are limitless for what you end up doing with it."

Photo credit: The Meat House

Senior reporter, The Huffington Post