Devotion to quality meat earns Butler legion of hungry fans

Brad Horn

Brad Horn

Not many people have made a career out of a job they started when they were 12 years old.

But that's what David Theiss has done at Butler Gourmet Meats, starting out as the clean-up boy in the 70s, before taking ownership in 1984.

And during that time, he's learned what his customers value.

"Our theme is quality," Theiss said. "When they come back and say, 'That's the best tri-tip I've ever had,' that's what I'm looking for."

The meats Theiss stocks - from single steaks to entire sides of beef - come from trusted producers that the store has been using for 30 years, which he says is reflected in the quality and taste. For instance, the beef comes from the Midwest and is properly aged before it is sold, giving it a better taste.

"When a new customer comes in, I tell them if they are going to buy just one thing, buy a pound of hamburger," Theiss said. "You will taste the difference. It is that much better."

Butler also offers organic chicken that Theiss said tastes the way chicken used to taste before becoming the mass-produced meat you see today. And come Thanksgiving, they offer never-frozen turkeys.

"These are fresh turkeys, no antibiotics, no hormones, nothing added to them," Theiss said. "They don't even get here until the Monday before Thanksgiving. We have a big following of people who order them ahead of time. They are so much better than frozen turkeys. If you sit down and compared eating them both, you would taste how much better they are."

Besides stocking high-quality meats, Theiss also creates several items for sale, such as the bacon he smokes and cures himself. One type he calls Comstock bacon, which is made from a different cut of pork that makes it leaner. He also makes 45 different varieties of sausage, and there are 18 types of sauces and marinades bottled for home use.

"I like developing new products," Theiss said. "I try to make about 10 new products a year. Some will go, and some won't. But after 25 years, we've collected quite a few that have really been good.

Keeping those new products in there, keeping everyone excited, keeps us in business."

And since his competitors are constantly introducing new products, he has to keep pace with customers' changing tastes.

"What it makes me do is I have to be on top of my game all the time," he said.

Some of the new products are designed to be easier for people to prepare, such as marinated tri-tip or chicken, or ready-made meatloaf that you can just take home and stick in the oven.

"I have four kids, and sometimes it's difficult to sit down and cook a good meal," Theiss said. "It helps to have things that you can cook without too much effort."

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., they also offer submarine and panini sandwiches, along with soup that is made from scratch every day.

The attention to quality and freshness is what Theiss said his customers demand, and which is gaining his store more followers.

"If you are going to eat, you might as well eat something good," Theiss said. "Our stuff is a little more expensive. But if you are already paying $3 a pound, you are only paying maybe 80 cents more a pound for something you really like."


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