What did you do before becoming a butcher?
“I worked on a trawler out of Dutch Harbor for a while. I came home and got a job on a tugboat before I got in an accident. I was 30 and had to find a new career (because of the accident). I was talking to a family friend and he said ‘Did you ever think about being a butcher?’ and I said ‘Honestly, who ever thinks about growing up and becoming a butcher?’. I got really lucky and got a couple guys that had a lot of experience between them and they taught me a lot from putting it down in the field to boning it out. I became a meat manager (in Canby) in less than three years. Then I came here because I was looking for an apprentice, and I noticed they were hiring down here for more money.”
How much meat do you get delivered weekly?
“I get around 500 pounds, sometimes it’s less depending on what’s going on.”
Where does most of it come from?
“I get St. Helens Beef and pork from Carlton Farms.”
What’s the most labor intensive part?
“Making sausages. I have to mix and make them by hand. I was making tiny snack sticks and they would take six hours with the hand crank. You have to do it slow or it will bust the seams in the casing. I stopped making those and started making snack sausages because they’re a larger casing. My smoker is 100 percent manual so if I’m smoking a turkey for 18 hours I’m here for 18 hours.”
What’s the messiest part?
“Sausage making for sure because I have to hand mix and grind it all. The messiest part might be the cleanup. I have to clean everything every time.”
What’s your favorite part?
“I really like to make sausages. They’re a pain in the ass, but they’re so good. If you create a good base — like a really good apple sausage — you can throw in jalapenos or cheddar. It’s fun to be able to explore. I make 25 pound trial batches.”
What’s the most under-appreciated cut?
“Tri-tip. They’re really popular in California, but up here not so much.”
What’s the biggest factor that influences daily sales?
“Weather. If the weather is sunny, people are out more so they come and buy more. If it’s rainy and nasty, they don’t want to be out. It’s all about the weather and time of year. People are more liberal with spending around Thanksgiving and Christmas because they’re having big gatherings.”
Are there any misconceptions you’ve encountered?
“The only one that gets under my skin is people just assume I’m not an animal guy. I love every animal out there, that’s why I choose not to be in a slaughterhouse. Here there’s no faces attached to them.”
What was the first lesson you’ve learned since being in business?
“Listen to the customers. They know what they want and how they want it. I’ve learned a lot from them. One day someone said I should put out a potato sausage. I put together a potato, onion, garlic, paprika sausage and people really enjoyed it.”
Do you have plans to expand in the future?
“Oh yeah, this place is huge. There’s a lot of room for growth as I do more. Right now my cooler is only 6 by 10. I hope to process elk into summer sausages next fall but first I have to put in a bigger walk-in cooler. After I start processing bigger game I’ll have to get a bigger smoker, then I’ll have to get a bigger freezer.”