By Nina Polien Light | Photo by Doug Khrenovsky
“Gallo was a wonderful place to work for 10 years,” she says of the whirlwind period that included the opening of The Butcher’s Pantry on April 16 of this year. “There was an opening at our distributor locally when we moved here, (but it) was not the best fit and The Wine Group had been pursuing me. It was a great move and an exciting career move for me.”
Acknowledging most start-ups do not see a profit for the first few years, the Steinhoffs decided Stephanie would accept a job as The Wine Group’s regional account manager for on-premise chains to ensure the family would continue to have a steady income and health insurance. Taylor, meanwhile, would run the day-to-day operations of The Butcher’s Pantry, the specialty market, butcher shop, and wine store the couple opened in the spot formerly occupied by Jim Alesci’s Place.
That was not the couple’s only lifestyle change. They soon learned they were ineligible for a small business loan because they had never owned a business, neither had worked as a butcher, and they were unable to show two years’ worth of business tax records. To help bankroll the venture, the Steinhoffs purchased a smaller home here than the one they sold in Taylor’s native St. Louis, where he worked in medical and advertising sales. The money saved by downsizing —along with modest savings and a little help from family — financed The Butcher’s Pantry.
For many years, the couple dreamed of opening a butcher shop that breaks down animals in-house to offer cuts of meat with no hormones, antibiotics or preservatives. Steinhoff, a certified specialist of wine (CSW) who always had an entrepreneurial drive, recalls being enamored with a butcher shop she encountered while working for Gallo on the East Coast. The shop offered local, high-integrity meat and a nice selection of wine. While dating Taylor, whose only food-industry experience was as a restaurant server, the couple began discussing how they could combine his sales experience with her wine acumen to open their own shop. After marrying and starting a family, the Miami University graduates decided to take the leap, with encouragement from Steinhoff’s father, an entrepreneur who had started a consulting company when he was 40.
“He said, ‘You can fall on your tail and still have time to recover,’” Steinhoff says.
While living in St. Louis, Taylor apprenticed with a local butcher, and his wife continued to work in the wine industry. Ultimately, they decided there was more opportunity to open a specialty butcher shop in Northeast Ohio than in St. Louis.
“It was good timing because I was still with Gallo and on maternity leave, which gave me time with the kids and to help Taylor with all of the things we didn’t know we were getting into,” she says, laughing. “Oh, the funny little things you learn in the process of opening a business.”
For one, Solon requires a general contractor to oversee construction projects, so Taylor decided to take on the role. That meant he had to be insured and bonded against himself. They also realized the lowest bid is not always the best bargain after hiring an inexpensive electrician who returned to the store five times to fix mistakes.
“If we ever open another location — our goal is to have two to five more locations in the next 10 years — we know every conversation needs to be written down and followed-up on with an email about what was said,” Steinhoff says. “We certainly learned that the hard way.”
Now that the store is up and running, the couple are tasked with upping their marketing skills and gauging how much meat to cut and place in the display case at a time. They want the case to look full, but, since the meats are preservative-free, they do not want to cut meat that will need to be tossed if not sold on time. They also hope to expand catering services.
The store — which contains 2,000 square feet of market space and a 1,000-square-foot prep area — offers cuts of locally sourced meat that consumers will not find elsewhere, such as a Tomahawk, a ribeye with a Fred Flintstone-type bone. The market also offers sandwiches, house-made sides, and a wine section Steinhoff hopes to expand as the business grows. Currently, her husband holds periodic wine tastings at a tasting island in the back of the store.
Although The Butcher’s Pantry has been open for just a few months, it is already beginning to show a profit — albeit a small one. Besides the Steinhoffs, the market employs a full-time head butcher, full-time head chef, part-time chef, and part-time cashier.
For more info: thebutcherspantry.com