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Retail Trends

Bill the Butcher

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Bill the Butcher took a page from Northwest neighbor Starbucks in developing a retail concept that, through product quality, merchandising ingenuity and entertaining, knowledgeable service, turns what has customarily been a commodity shop into a lifestyle shop. Specifically for its creators and its growing legion of customers, it is almost a love song to grassroots farming.

The beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, poultry, game, homemade sausages and cured meats that Bill the Butcher sells were all raised by ranchers who farm and ranch organically or naturally.

The idea for the concept comes from J’Amy Owens, the granddaughter of North Dakota grassroots farmers who has helped develop hundreds of specialty retail brands, including Starbucks.

Sold in shops averaging 1,200 sq. ft., the meat is part of the décor — cuts are displayed in cases, but the meat also hangs on hooks or rails to dry or cure. At the heart of the shop is a “butcher’s altar,” similar to a barista’s station.

The butchers work on raised wooden podiums where, in full view, they create made-to-order cuts. Butchers entertain and inform customers, demonstrating, for example, how one chicken cut four different ways can provide four different meals for one or two people.

Owens’ goal is to create a brand new marketplace for local products “that is above the farmer’s market and below the grocery store.” To her, Bill the Butcher is “a soapbox to help change the thinking that has led to the industrialization of our food supply.”

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