NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Steve Ford opened Butcher’s Best Country Market in Newtown four years ago. The concept, however, had baked in Ford’s brain for nearly three decades, beginning when he started out as an animal skinner near Rochester, N.Y.
“I knew early that this was what I wanted to do,’’ Ford said. “Before my wife and I got married, the priest asked me during our interview to show me what you want to do for the rest of your life. I drew this butcher shop. I drew the picture and it sat on my desk up until about four years ago.”
- Who : Steve Ford, Newtown
- What : Owner of Butcher's Best Country Market
- The concept: The store offers high-quality meat, seafood, produce and prepared meals.
- Learn more: http://butchersbestmarket.com/
Ford has spent his entire career in the industry, moving on to an apprenticeship with Wegmans and then working as a butcher at Ancona’s Market in Ridgefield. He initially opened Butcher’s Best at a deli, Newtown Deli and Catering, not far from his current location at 125 S. Main St.
“When I worked at Ancona’s, there was a great sense of camaraderie between customers and staff,’’ Ford said. “The store also offered prepared dishes, recipes and feedback for customers. I thought if I had a store, what they offered would be something I’d like to do.”
The construct of his store follows the plan Ford outlined more than 30 years ago. The store offers the best in quality meets, but its range of prepared foods, cuts of meat, recipes and service are unparalleled.
As a butcher, Ford said he’s the “last of the Mohicans.” But the store is more than about meat. It’s an entire atmosphere focused on providing the best cuts and sharing preparation skills, recipes and knowledge from an experienced staff.
“As we’ve grown in the industry, people identify meat products with grocery stores,’’ Ford said. “I didn’t want that to be the only option for consumers. We wanted to offer more. Quality of product, professionalism, properly cutting the product and talking with the consumer about how to cook it are all important. In the variety of recipes, it’s important to know why one muscle might be better than another.”
The lifestyle of a butcher is not for the meek. After Ford worked skinning animals, he cut the animals and moved them to meat lockers. He did most of his work outside in the frigid Rochester winters. “Customers would have individual lockers. They’d come and get their key off a pegboard, open the locker and take the product home.”
Ford calls himself one of the last “hoof-to-sausage” butchers. His shop, however, is far removed from the butcher shops of days gone by. It’s neat, clean and offers items that even the other few remaining butcher shops in Fairfield County do not have.
“The trend with customers is to get everything under one roof,’’ Ford said. “The grocers have adjusted. The butcher shops of old tried to compete with that model, but found out they couldn’t and disappeared. We don’t don’t want to be the only tree in the middle of the field. We want to inspire other butchers to do what we’re doing. Grocers today offer a middle-market product. We are a much higher offering. They can’t do what we do. They can’t put the service behind the product that we offer.”
A simple example is a breakfast favorite, the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Ford’s eggs are local; the bacon is made at the store and the bread comes from a supplier in Bridgeport. “It’s a different level of quality,’’ Ford said.
Ford also oversaw the construction of the shop, and his imprint is felt all over. It includes an assortment of antiques, another of Ford’s passions. “Everything you see I had in storage,’’ he said. “I love re-purposing.”
Ford, who was involved with a youth wrestling program in Newtown, has seen his store flourish. “We started with a one-man show, and it was a lot of hours,’’ he said. Now the store has 23 employees, and the offerings have escalated as well. He has successfully put a new spin on a business that has been around since the dawn of time.
“We’re not a volume business and we don’t want to be,’’ he said “We want to service as many as we can. We have a niche we’re trying to serve. This has been a dream of mine for a long time, and it’s exactly what I thought it would be.”
For more information, click here to visit the Butcher’s Best website.