When Ray Rastelli, Jr. opened the Meat Stop as an 18-year-old, his first goal was to stay in business. He never dreamed of turning his butcher shop into a meat processing operation and distribution center that would ultimately supply meat to restaurants, hotels and large-scale clients all over the country.
“At the beginning of any project, I think you aspire to what is just out of reach and what this business has become is so much more than that,” Ray Jr. said. “When we first opened, all we had time to consider was what we had to do to stay open. Eventually, hoping for any customers turned in to hoping for regular customers. That gave way to imagining what the business could be with larger customers. Our imagination for what the business would look like in the future grew gradually at each milestone and continues to evolve today.”
Featured in the cover story of MEAT+POULTRY’s July issue, Ray Rastelli Jr. and his son Ray Rastelli III, talk about the business that’s been growing and evolving for the past 40 years. Today, the business – now known as Rastelli Foods Group – is more than a butcher shop. “We are in retail, foodservice, e-commerce and export. And we process beef, pork, poultry, veal, lamb and seafood,” said Ray Rastelli III, vice president of Rastelli Foods Group. “We cross a lot of different fronts. We are a unique diversified business model.”
Three generations of Rastellis are part of Rastelli Foods Group today but in 1976, the Meat Stop opened its doors with only Ray Rastelli, Jr. at the helm. His father, Ray Rastelli, Sr. gave him $10,000 to start a business. With it, Ray Jr. opened a 5,000-sq.-ft. butcher shop, called the Meat Stop, in Oak Valley, New Jersey. The shop did well and Ray Jr. went on to open a second store a few years later. With two stores in 1983, he invited his brother Tony to join the business.
With the continued success of the butcher shops, the Rastelli brothers’ customer base started expanding beyond traditional consumers to area restaurants. In the mid-80s, in order to handle orders from local restaurants in South Jersey and Greater Philadelphia, the brothers opened a 1,500-sq.-ft. production facility in the back of their Meat Stop store in Deptford, New Jersey.
By 1990, the Rastelli brothers owned and operated eight Meat Stop shops. Eventually all but one of the Meat Stop locations (the one in Deptford, New Jersey) were sold to independent buyers as the Rastellis’ attention re-focused on foodservice and meat processing.
Rastelli’s corporate headquarters and processing facility are now based in Swedesboro, New Jersey. In 2003, when they moved operations there, the plant was 50,000 sq. ft., the company is now in the process of doubling its size to 100,000 sq. ft. All of the company’s meat and seafood processing is now done in this plant. When the expansion is complete there will be 13 processing lines in the plant – the renovation should be complete in early 2017.