ABINGDON, Va. — A neighborhood butcher shop has arrived in town, aiming to serve up quality, personal service.
Snow’s Fine Meats & Provisions, which opened on East Main Street last week, may be the first butcher shop to operate in Abingdon since the late 1950s.
According to Reid Snow, owner and operator of the business, it was serendipity to learn that his shop is located in the same store building that housed the butcher shop City Market decades ago.
Snow said the 12-foot ceilings and an interior wall of old Virginia brick makes a nice accent to his new business.
The whole animal butcher shop will specialize in locally sourced, pasture-based proteins, handmade deli items and specialty goods.
Just like in the old-fashioned butcher shops, customers will be able to select meat from a 12-foot glass case stocked with cuts trimmed in house.
“I wrap the customer’s selections and price it. It’s an old-fashioned experience,” said Snow, who also will custom-cut meat for his customers. “Customers can get steaks and chops to any thickness they require.”
And like with many of the old-fashioned butcher shops, Snow, a passionate cook, is glad to offer customers a few tips on how to prepare the meats.
He said it’s the personal service and hands-on approach to food that sets him apart from grocery stores.
In his small butcher shop, cuts of meat are individually inspected for wholesomeness and quality. “I strive to stock the best-quality meat available. It really makes a difference when your food is handled with care and quality in mind.”
Snow will provide customers with a variety of cuts of chicken, lamb, beef and pork, many of which will be raised by local farmers.
“Some cuts will be choice and prime grades from USDA grain-finished beef,” he said.
In his processing room at the store, Snow will make sausage by hand and cure fresh bacon.
“Eventually, I want to offer house-made deli meats, chicken and potato salads and pimiento cheese, along with a variety of dry goods and specialty items,” he said.
According to Snow, the neighborhood butcher shops are making a comeback.
“A whole animal butcher shop just opened up in Knoxville, and there are several of these shops in Asheville, North Carolina. I think this is going to be a good fit for Abingdon,” he said.
Years ago, the corner butcher shop was a common place for customers to shop. Just about every rural town had a meat market.
“In the olden days, the butcher was also the slaughter man who took whole animals into the shop and knew how to cut it down into pieces that you can use,” said Snow.
“The older butchers operated with a system where carcasses were attached to a rail where they were skinned and split, but all of the bones were left intact.
“It was a very physically demanding job. A cow could weigh about 800 pounds in dead weight.”
Throughout the years, the subtle art of butchering has been replaced by what Snow calls “factory farming.”
“There are factories out West that butcher as many as a thousand head of cattle a day. The animals are butchered, processed by machines into manageable pieces and shipped to grocery stores,” said Snow.
A cut above
The old-fashioned butcher shops in the past remain a source of intrigue for the young butcher.
While renovating his store building, Snow found old business records from City Market, owned and operated by Clyde Rosenbaum of Glade Spring, some of which he framed for the walls as memorabilia from the past.
“I found old invoices from East Tennessee Packing Co. for things like bologna, and a 1958 business license from the town of Abingdon.”
As much as he loves being a butcher, Snow’s career journey didn’t start out in the meat industry.
Snow said his first memory of meeting the “meat man” at his local grocery store was as a child when the mischievous youth repetitively rang the bell for service.
“I’ve learned a lot since then,” he said with a smile.
Originally from Pulaski, Virginia, Snow graduated from Appalachian State University in 2008 with an English degree.
After working as a sports writer for Southwest Times in Pulaski County, Virginia, he moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where he worked in produce at Ingles grocery store.
His career path took a turn when he was transferred to the grocery store’s meat department, getting his first introduction to meat cutting skills.
Snow said his experiences as a butcher immediately became a passion.
He later worked in the meat department at Sam’s Club in Asheville, where he met three old-fashioned, trained butchers who schooled Snow in the art of meat cutting.
“It was a natural extension of being in the grocery business. I thought it was a good skill to learn, and I was excited about the challenge,” he said.
“I learned a valuable old-school work ethic from the older butchers, such as the importance of giving attention to details.
“It’s those same details that I want to offer to my local customers. I look forward to the face-to-face interactions with customers that will make my business stronger and more meaningful.”
Snow’s Fine Meats & Provisions, located at 160 E. Main St. in Abingdon, will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
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Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at email@example.com.