Woodstock Meats has been a fixture in the community for 55 years and it plans to carry on that tradition amid the trend of butchers disappearing from large grocery chains. Since 1964, The Mill Hill Road store has attracted longtime customers with knowledgeable staff and quality products.
“We have so many regulars who come in. We see you every day and we all know each other by our first name,” said Sam Iapoce, who was brought on as general manager last November. “It’s all hellos. How are you doing? People know about each other’s children. It just speaks to the community of Woodstock.”
Nels Leader, Ian Martin and Dave Majuri bought the business from Kevin Christofora about four years ago and kept the staff. Last year, they made major renovations, building an addition that allowed them space for a completely outfitted kitchen and a second floor for office space. The new kitchen is a vast improvement from the household oven staff was using behind the butcher counter to prepare an assortment of hot meals. “We’ve gotten some really great responses in terms of how popular our sandwiches are and what our dinner options are,” Iapoce said.
Josh Rajala, formerly a Bear Cafe chef, joined the team recently to bring some expertise into the prepared foods program, fine-tuning some deli salads and other offerings. So far it’s paid off. Recently Woodstock Meats won Best Overall in the annual Taste of Woodstock with 55-day dry-aged sirloin cheeseburgers and Philly cheesesteak egg rolls. “We got a great response from the community and obviously the 200-250 participants all felt we hit it out of the park,” Iapoce said.
Lunch time is always busy as people, even entire construction crews, line up at the deli counter to get their made-to-order sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, chicken or whatever happens to be the special of the day.
The store also offers a wide variety of craft beer, local produce and grocery staples. But ultimately its history is in quality meat.
“At the end of the day, Woodstock Meats is a butcher shop. A lot of people come for the deli sandwiches and that kind of thing, but what we are really striving to be is the destination butcher for the Hudson Valley and for all of Upstate New York,” Iapoce said.
Filling a niche as a full-service butcher
As large grocery chains get rid of full-service butchers and places like Fleischer’s Craft Butchery disappear from the area, Woodstock Meats has found a niche and continues to provide quality local, humanely raised meat.
Full cows, pigs and lambs come from Kilcoyne Farms north of Saratoga and Finger Lake Farms near Ithaca and are free of hormones and antibiotics.
Even boxed meat must meet this standard, said Iapoce.
“It’s antibiotic and hormone free even down to what they’re eating, so not only are the animals not injected, but neither is the grains or foods they’re eating during their life.”
Its something Woodstock Meats is passionate about and care is taken to make sure the animals are slaughtered as humanely as possible. “A lot of people have probably seen Netflix horror stories about slaughterhouses and the amount of fear these animals go through and the anxiety,” Iapoce said. “That really ultimately negatively affects the product and the meat you’re buying.”
Each animal is put in a CO2 chamber, so rather than being cut alive, it is put to sleep.
“So they don’t experience any pain. They don’t experience any fear, anxiety. They’re not looking around and seeing all their friends go under and stuff like that,” he said.
Customers can tell the difference in quality with meat that is not factory raised. A great example which Iapoce is proud to carry, is Bell & Evans chickens.
“A majority of those chickens live better lives than most of our pets,” he said.
Doing a challenge aside a hormone, steroid and antibiotic-pumped chicken, “you can really taste it. You can see it in the color, the size and the tenderness.”
Dry-aged meat a Woodstock Meats specialty
The Woodstock store is one of the only places in the Hudson Valley that offers dry-aged meat and it’s all done in-house. “We have local ribs and strips that come in every week that we keep on the shelf under the best possible conditions so they’re oxidizing in the proper way and handled responsibly. We’ve gotten incredible feedback,” Iapoce said.
Another popular new item is jerky, which Iapoce said is a great thing for tourists because it gives them more of a portable reminder of what Woodstock Meats has to offer.
“The jerky is great because you don’t need to necessarily come in and buy a NY strip or ribeye and keep it in your pocket while you’re walking around town,” he said.
“It’s almost like a souvenir in and of itself from the meat shop that you can take with you. I’ve had moms come in and buy three packs to send their son at college who loved it. That’s probably one of the hardest products we have to keep on the shelves.”
Collaboration with local businesses
Iapoce said Woodstock Meats is collaborating with local restaurants to make people aware of its offerings and to cross-promote each other’s businesses.
“We’re working with A&P Bar to start a sausage program where we’re going to offer them sausages from us and they’re going to have it on their menu,” he said. The sausage will be available at the store and staff can promote the fact that it is on the menu at a local restaurant. Other eateries take advantage as well. Station Bar & Curio, for example purchases ingredients for its grilled cheese sandwiches and other bar snacks from Woodstock Meats.
“The majority of us all have a great friendship, in business and outside of that,” Iapoce said.
Great service can form lifetime friendships
“The bonds that we build with people through community but also through quality brings them back,” Iapoce said. A customer might place a rather expensive order for something like a suckling pig or a large amount or lamb legs or a full rack of ribs for a barbecue, then become a loyal customer because of their satisfaction with the service and product, Iapoce explained. “That always to me is kind of the sign that the hard work that we’re doing to ensure the quality and also the hard work we’re doing in terms of customer service and building bonds with these people really is worth it and does create long-lasting relationships with great customers.”
As an appreciation for its customers and in celebration of its anniversary, Woodstock Meats will have pig roasts coming around Columbus Day. Dates aren’t set yet but details will come soon.
Woodstock Meats, 57 Mill Hill Road, is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Follow @woodstockmeats on Instagram for updates and specials.