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Historical Look At Retail Food Stores on Martha's Vineyard Part 1

Historical Look At Retail Food Stores on Martha's Vineyard Part 1

1900 Butcher, source unknown

1900 Butcher, source unknown

Today we continue our series on Martha's Vineyard foodways based on oral histories found in the Martha’s Vineyard Museum archive located Edgartown, Massachusetts. I’ve transcribed the interviews and share them as short stories that are helpful for would be culinary entrepreneurs. We turn now to the business of selling food as a retailer and some of the strategies one can use to obtain and keep customers.

John Coutinho grew up in Vineyard Haven during the Great Depression. He would go on to manage the meat department in the old First National Store in Vineyard Haven. He recalls having to butcher boxes of large cuts of cow, lamb, and pig. “We would slice it, cut it, roll it, everything else, all by hand.” Today the meat department in stores on the island package meat already butchered at processing plants on the mainland. He goes on to explain, local butchers on the island “do work, understand but nothing like we did! In the back of the store we had to butcher blocks made out of hardwood after a while the blocks cut so that the cleavers we used created dips in them.” 

The take away: Establish a butcher shop business that offers service that you competitors don’t offer. For example, offer cuts of meat that you can’t find elsewhere. Perhaps sell inexpensive cuts that customers can turn into great meals for less dollars. My favorite example is turkey wings! There’s nothing better to me than a barbecued, smoked, or roasted turkey wing. One wing in itself is a meal! Provide your customers with recipes on how to use what you sell in dispensary Strategically located in your store for customers can pick up for free elegantly designed baseball card size recipe cards with the cut of meat before cooking, the recipe, and the finished dish. Provide samples of dishes made from the recipes in your retail space. Both whole foods and Trader Joe’s have perfected this last suggestion. More tomorrow, But in the meantime Download and enjoy enjoy the related podcast about new trends and innovations in the butcher business which I've listed below. 

Martha’s Vineyard Stories

New England Through the Lens of Food

Grocery Store Articles

Dario Cecchini, the Most Famous Butcher in the World

Bring back the butcher shop

The herbivorous butcher

The vegetable butcher

Picking and Canning Fruit on the Vineyard Part 4

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Historical Looks Retail Food Stores on Martha's Vineyard Part 2

Historical Looks Retail Food Stores on Martha's Vineyard Part 2

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