Butcher shop carves out niche in Minden
December 4, 2012
The restaurant business can be brutal. The grocery business can be brutal. But a high-end combination of the two appears capable of cutting out a nice slice of the market in downtown Minden. If customer flow on a breezy Thursday morning is any indication, Minden Meat and Deli on Highway 395 is doing well. Owner Kevin Mary was busy behind the counter packaging special orders for discerning patrons, and just when he found enough time to sit down and discuss his business, more folks streamed through the doors.“Business is fantastic,” he said, “not necessarily in the categories I expected. For lunch, it’s just packed.”Mary, 38, doesn’t hail from the food service industry, but that’s not to say he doesn’t know how to cook. “I’ve always been a cook. I would go camping when I was a teenager, and everybody else would bring the food — and I would cook it,” he said. “My formal training was my mom. In junior high school, I would come home and turn on the deep fryer… I just loved to cook.”Mary brings retail experience to the proverbial table. At the age of 16, he started working as a bag boy at Vons in Southern California. By the age of 23, he’d worked his way up to assistant store manager. Seven years ago, he moved north to co-manage what became Lira’s Supermarket in Minden. When the store closed in the fall of 2010, it had developed a reputation in the community for its meat, deli and beer and wine products, specifically Yukon Gold-marinated tri-tip and skirt steak. Mary said he knew within days of Lira’s closure what he wanted to do: preserve that reputation in some form.“I wanted to take what we had done in those departments and make it work on a smaller scale,” he said. Thus the formation of Minden Meat and Deli. As he’d done through Lira’s, Mary offered his fare at farmers markets and community events.“We did better this year than any other year,” he said.Concurrent with his catering, Mary found a store location on the main drag, where Jimmy G’s and Heidi’s once stood. But renovating the space for a butcher shop and retail operation proved time-consuming. Ceilings had to be blasted, trusses modified, and the bar rebuilt. With the help of Kevin Hermann, store manager and butcher, and Clarissa Cavaness, Mary’s girlfriend and all-around helper, Mary spent the better part of a year remodeling the establishment. He and his team performed at least half the labor themselves.And it paid off. Minden Meat and Deli opened at the end of September.“That first Monday, the lights turned on and have been on ever since,” Mary said. Inside the new store is a grocery-grade deli display full of fresh meats, fine cheeses, seafood, sides and soups. Mary makes a special point of featuring local vendors, such as Carson Valley Sausage, Sweetie Pies (yes, Wendy Smith’s pies are back), and Truckee Sourdough Co. His beef vendor, Creekstone Farms, is based in the Midwest, and his seafood comes from Northern California fisheries. “Creekstone is choice Black Angus and just phenomenal,” Mary said. “Someone will come in and want a ribeye cut 2.5 inches thick, or a prime rib roast cut and tied. Special orders are no problem.”Near the deli stands a large refrigerated case of beverages. Sierra Kombucha, a Minden-based organic juice line, draws the eye. As do bottles of Death Valley soda from Indian Wells Brewing Co. And bottles of beer from Oregon-based Rogue and other microbreweries. Near the remodeled bar stretch shelves of wine. There are also six beers on tap, including Mammoth Double Nut Brown and Lagunitas IPA.As for the sit-down restaurant, Mary said sandwiches have been selling at a fast clip. “We do a Reuben panini on marbled rye, and we sold about 120 to 140 our first week,” he said. “Our tri-tip sandwich is still the big seller.”Mary sees his business segments (butcher shop, retail, restaurant, catering) working together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. “We always have something new going on,” he said. “We’re always expanding.”Located at 1595 Highway 395, Minden Meat and Deli is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily and closes later on the weekends. For more information, call 783-9999.