Small Business Matters: Boone’s Butcher Shop

by Steve Krut
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Boone Butcher Shop
Left to right: Allison Boone Porteus, Matthew Boone, Jerry Boone and Jerry's wife Donna Boone.
 

With a Wal-Mart just two miles down the road from his Bardstown, Kentucky, meat business, Jerry Boone has to keep his knife and his business focus sharp.

The president of Boone’s Butcher Shop faced major struggles when the plant, also known as Boone’s Abattoir, burned to the ground in 2004.

“We rebuilt and reopened a year later, thanks to a Kentucky Agriculture Development grant,” Boone says. “Those who ran that program recognized how much livestock agriculture meant to our area. Our business was started in 1946 and we represented a key facility for local producers to have their livestock processed.”

Community and service


So successful has the resurrected business become, that another grant was authorized later when a 19,000-sq.-ft. expansion was needed. This past April, the doors to the newly expanded facility opened to a remodeled and enlarged retail area and additional cooler and freezer space. Boone notes that a condition of the grants require him to offer a processing discount to area farmers who use the plant as a key component of marketing their animals.

“We have more than 100 livestock producers who use our service to bring their meats to market,” Boone explains. “Some bring their animals 160 miles to our plant. They sell the federally inspected meats at farmers markets and even on Facebook under their private label.”

He and his 40-employee team include a daughter Allison and son Matthew who handle everything from customer service to scheduling, including working the retail counter and helping with production.

“You know how a small, family-run business operates,” Allison explains, “titles aren’t the important thing but keeping everything running smoothly is the key. So, we all have to wear many hats.”

Allison iterates that Boone’s is able to survive and thrive because of its focus on customer satisfaction.

“Yes, we have a Wal-Mart just down the road from us, but it is our service that sets us apart from any competition,” Jerry contends. “Area families shop there for many things, but when it comes to meats, they make a second stop, and that’s right here. They love our service and our knowledge of meats. It has almost become a lost art. We are very fortunate that we have so many long-time employees who share their knowledge and pride of service with our newer employees.”

While customers come in for the service, they also come in for the vast array of meats, which Jerry says are priced right. They are astounded by the variety and their eyes are agog at the 100 feet of meat case displays.

“We have everything in fresh meats,” Jerry explains. “When it comes to beef, we have prime, choice, select and even no-roll meats (ungraded) that offer those shopping for something less expensive a real bargain. We display everything from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse quality meats to those in demand by those who have tight budgets. If they want a 7-oz. steak, we have it for them.”

A huge marketing strength for Boone’s Butcher Shop is its bundle program, one that offers an assortment of meats in the $40 to $50 range. The store also displays posters of larger bundle packages that range up to $250 per order.
Butcher Shop
Left to right: Jerry Boone, Roberty L. McCafferty and Jamehyl Butler.
 


Location and value 

Boone’s uses its website, boonesbutchershop.com and radio and newspaper advertising to promote its products and services. The company is located 40 miles from Louisville, 50 miles from Lexington and 25 miles from Elizabethtown.

“Our location is perfect,” Jerry contends. “We have no neighbors but are 1½ blocks from the main street in town. The highway runs just past our facility. Retail is clearly a huge part of our business.”

Jerry, now 60, is affable and laid back. He reflects on how he came to work for his father Luel right out of high school.

“I was just doing what we always did,” he recalls. “Then I attended a convention program where a speaker began explaining how different cuts of meat should have different costs...and boy did that open my eyes. Most of our meats are minimally processed, but customers can come in and get steaks that have been aged six to eight weeks. Some cuts might run $20 a pound, but when you deliver the personal service and explain the price differentials, the customers appreciate your honesty and they feel better informed. Some larger box stores don’t share that kind of information and some of their clerks may not even know why things are priced differently. For us, it’s a huge advantage.”

Jerry has a vast display of further-processed meats that they buy from other processors, including country ham from Burger’s Smokehouse in California, Missouri.

“We looked at expanding that end of the business but know there is a tremendous investment in equipment needed to take that step,” he says. “We think we can work with other small processors to have them make further-processed and value-added meats like wieners and sausages equal to, or of better quality, than we can produce. We’re not always absolute on that, but we deliberately choose to focus on what we do best and that is fresh, quality meats in a magnificent variety. Items like country hams have risks in long-term production and vast fluctuations in market prices, so we play things closer to the vest.”

Boone Butcher Shop
Left to right: Jerry Boone, Jamehyl Butler (employed since 2008), and Robert L. McCafferty (employed since 2009).
 
The Boones are as much a meat philosophy team as they are successful marketers and meat cutters.

“Some things like pulled pork are easy and convenient for us to put in our display cases,” Jerry says. “I would say that in many ways, we actually shop for our customers before they ever come into the store. They like quality and bargains at a fair price and that’s what we try to deliver and not disappoint them.”

While the mainstay for Boone’s Butcher Shop is beef and pork, the business also processes and sells buffalo, lamb and goat products. Their game processing is one of the largest in the area and they offer a huge variety of value-added products for sportsmen.

The founder of the company, Luel Boone, worked in a packing house before establishing his own enterprise. He was also a founder and for 12 years, the president of the Kentucky Meat Processors Association. Jerry says the association later disbanded, but he is entertaining thoughts of working with other processors to resurrect it, much like his business after the devastating fire.

“There are a few of us who realize that we can work together to improve our business management skills and our products as well,” he says. “Everything I know I probably learned from someone else in the business, so it’s only natural to keep that avenue of learning open and try to expand it when we can.”
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