Local foodies will soon have a choice in where they buy their specialty meats.
Chapel Hill will get a gourmet-style butcher when the nationally-franchised The Meat House opens in April.
“The overall concept for the franchise is that we have everything in the store for you to make a full meal,” owner Paul Coon said.
The Meat House will open near East Franklin Street and Estes Drive where Applebee’s once stood, and renovations are being completed by Raleigh-based Macallan Construction.
Cristiana Wall, director of business development for Macallan, said the neighborhood feel of a meat shop will differentiate it from area competitors like A Southern Season, Whole Foods Market and The Fresh Market.
“It’s a much smaller scale, a hometown butcher,” Wall said. “There are a lot of people in the area from other parts of the country who have immigrated here and have been used to having a butcher.”
And while Coon said he optimistic about the venture, he could face some competition from an already deep-rooted local establishment.
Cliff’s Meat Market in Carrboro opened 38 years ago and has developed a loyal customer base, about half of which is made up of Latino residents, said manager Jerri Roberson.
“Hispanic customers tend to buy meat on a daily basis,” Roberson said.
Owner Cliff Collins said he’s unsure of the potential impact of having a second independent butcher in town.
“To keep my clients, I might have to lower my prices,” Collins said. “I have a bunch of stable customers, and I hope it stays that way.”
But Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said residents have proven their interest in high-quality food and will benefit from the increased availability of gourmet meat.
“Chapel Hill has become the foodie capital of the United States,” Nelson said. “We have more farmer’s markets per capita and groceries per capita. Our restaurants are recognized as the top in the nation.”
Though other North Carolina locations for The Meat House include Cary and Charlotte, Coon said he chose Chapel Hill for the small-town feel.
“We’re firmly entrenched in the community,” he said. “My mother is originally from the Triangle, and so we’re coming back to her roots.”
Coon said The Meat House’s specialty is marinated steak tips, a dish he said will be well-received by a typical Chapel Hill customer.
“It creates almost a cult-following,” he said.
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