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Owners continue to cultivate meat lovers' paradise
On December 26, Carnivores Meats (CM) of Grand Island, Nebraska, celebrated their first year in business. This specialty market features high-quality meats, sauces, mixes, side dish ingredients and other food products unique to central Nebraska.
The establishment is 3,600 square feet of lodge-like space and features a bar area, dining room, retail space, freezers and coolers for shopping and an award-winning butcher shop.
Eric Muth, the primary owner of Carnivores Meats, wanted to create a place where people and food come together.
Over the past year, his business has transformed into what his customers want. He reports that 70 percent of what was originally planned has changed in the first year of business. Muth and two other silent investors spent over two years researching and planning the business before opening their doors.
Both Muth and his store manager, Trenton Tophoj, have backgrounds working with the commercial food supply industry. With a year of retail experience, the business has restructured and is ready to welcome year two.
Muth and Tophoj have listened to their frequent patrons and now offer an expanded lunch menu, entertainment and products that are exclusive to CM.
“We definitely push to meet [customers'] needs and what they want," said Muth. "They are very vocal about what they want, especially when it comes to food. They are always asking and we keep lists. If there are multiple people asking for the same thing, we are bringing it into stock for them.”
“We often utilize social media,” adds Tophoj. “Like ‘What you Want or Need for a Tailgate Party’ and we can modify our inventory to ensure we carry what people want.”
Although becoming a business owner has challenges, the budding business has developed many new processes, CM brings Muth one reward that makes it all worth it: the ability to give back. He has adjusted the business model for CM to use philanthropy as a main channel for reaching the populace of central Nebraska. He embraces the opportunity to use his business success to assist those in need and other organizations as they raise funds for social causes and to better their community.
CM holds many different fundraisers, one of which is their coupon program. It filters 10 percent of daily profits back to the sponsoring organization. Another program allows groups to sell CM products at a price that helps raise money. However, the customers come to the store to pick up the products. This increases foot traffic in the store, while benefiting the charitable organization at the same time.
Muth and Tophoj agree that the most challenging element of the first year in business was balancing the financial aspect—learning how to operate a business including inventory, purchases, control, making sure shelves are fresh and managing waste. They attribute their balance to a quality staff that has the ability to execute ideas and run the business.
Muth and Tophoj constantly communicate with one another. They have learned to delegate and cross-train employees in order to make everyone more efficient. They have also adapted their business model to include new offerings such as serving lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week; resulting in more traffic during the day, and preparing dishes that can be picked up for events (Roasters-To-Go).
“We have created a fun atmosphere where people can come and celebrate life and food," said Muth. "We want them to come in and get lost. We don’t want them to come in and be ushered down the aisle like a grocery store. We want it to be an experience.”
They have done this in a variety of ways. They are, on occasion, open late Thursday nights and often bring in live music or host an event to draw in the crowds. They allow customers to try different food samples and grab a beer or other drinks while they shop. Not only can customers find traditional foods, but they can also purchase wild game and locally-sourced meats and products.
CM originally planned for success based on the uniqueness of venue and products, but they learned that convenience is just as important.
“We have a responsibility to our customers that we hope to turn into our friends. They need a reason to come here. Part of the initial business plan, we thought we needed to be unique so that we can break people of the habit of convenience; of going somewhere because it is convenient. At some point it clicked. Why do we fight against that? Why don't we just make it convenient? So based off of that, we started bringing in things to make it convenient,” Tophoj said as he explains why they now carry everything needed to make a meal for the family such as noodles and sauces in addition to the high-quality meats.
Tophoj says his personal mission is to make CM a vehicle to connect people with food.
“They can connect with their family. We are so busy; people don’t have time to cook," said Muth. "If we can give people products and recipes that make it easier for you to cook and enjoy a meal with your family, that means the world to us, because nobody does that anymore and our society reflects that.”
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