CHATHAM Va. — Zach Harris, a local farmer and entrepreneur in Chatham, has decided to open up a butcher shop in Tightsqueeze. He plans to sell farm to table beef, poultry, pork and fresh seafood. The shop itself is still under construction, but Harris and his team are aiming to have the shop finished and ready to go before the September.
“We are shooting originally for mid-July. Right now, I think we’re about a week off from having all the equipment here depending on what contractors we can get in here… I’m optimistic to think we’re going to do an opening somewhere around the first week of August,” Harris said.
Harris is set on the transparency of his shop’s work and his process.
“My business’s whole model is set on being able to see the process,” said Harris. “When I decided to do all this I want it to be as visual for the clientele out front as possible. Because it used to be with old school butcher shops that’s kind of how they did it… And now when you go to any of these butcher shops, they’ll cut in front of you, but you don’t get to see the whole process.”
Harris went into detail how he will achieve his shop’s transparency.
“Part of my vision was to put these windows where people could walk in the front door and see one of our meat cutters pulling a whole quarter of an animal out and being able to cut it in front of them. I mean if somebody wanted to come set up shop and just watch, we’re happy for that to happen,” he said.
Harris is not just wanting to create a prosperous community focused business, but a more community conscious business as well. “We’re raising these cattle local, these cattle come right off of my farm. That’s what I’ve always pushed. This is what’s the next piece of the puzzle we can have our hands in; for one to educate the public on a better food source,” Harris said. “Anything we can do to support more of a local type farm is what we’re going do… All of our pork, our beef, our poultry, all are going to be raise local here…
Something Harris wants potential future costumers to know that what he delivers is worth its price. “Something else we’re doing that you’re not going to get anywhere else, this is a guarantee, is the quality. We’re going to source the best quality product we can… We’re going to be competitive, we’re not going to be cheap, but we will have quality… You cannot match the quality from us being able to have raised the animals, knowing everything about them from day one, to the finished product when they leave here,” he said.
Harris is working within an established system he, his wife and his business partners have created. “We sell about 5,000 pounds of beef every two weeks. We distribute that from here to Virginia Beach, to Richmond, to Fredericksburg, to Charlottesville. I mean we’re going all throughout the state already,” he said.
Harris hopes with his beef, already being widespread in Virginia’s market, will contribute to the prosperity of his coming shop. “Hopefully as people are touring and travelling, people that may have come in contact with our product will want to stop here. Maybe it will bring traffic into Tightsqueeze and bring traffic into town,” Harris said, again touching on the communal benefits his business may bring to the area.
Harris’s upbringing and background has, in part, contributed to his enthusiasm with farming and ranching. “Originally I guess I got started because my parents bought a little farm out here in Chatham. From the time when I was about 15, when they bought it, I always wanted to be there verses anywhere else,” he said. “I’ve always had a passion for livestock. I was raised with horses; I’ve always have had animals. So, when I started making a little income when I was 19, I started buying a few cows here and there. It was just a hobby.”
Harris seems dedicated to overseeing and supporting his butcher shop personally for some time. “I plan on being here a lot, probably for the first six months to a year… the first six months for sure,” he said.
Harris has been planning his butcher shop for nearly two years, but decided to wait for the best moment to begin his project. “We had put the plans to put this together last year about March and [COVID-19] hit. It was bad timing,” said Harris. “I should have done it last year, but we wanted to hold tight instead of be proactive just because we didn’t know how [COVID-19] was going to go,” he continued.
Even with Harris having a plan of opening a butcher shop, he had to closely consider where the best storefront would be. One of Harris’s reasons for opening up near Chatham is because, “I love Chatham, I live in Chatham.” However, there weren’t many opportunities for Harris in the town itself. “We looked in town to do this originally… We looked at Old Dutch, discussed with them for a few months, but we never got anywhere where we felt comfortable enough to move in… I wanted that foot traffic, I mean you see thousands and thousands of Vehicles go up [route 29],” said Harris. “There are not very many incentives to be in town, for me personally. We’re catering to a smaller clientele. It’s a whole lot harder to get people to come into town then to be on 29. The traffic that goes through [Tightsqueeze] is unreal.”
Harris is still confident in his decision. “We negotiated a very solid deal for us in Tightsqueeze for the next five years. Even if I could have spent the same amount of money in Chatham versus here, I think I’m probably going to be marketing to a broader clientele here,” he said.
Harris is confident in the trajectory of his butcher shop, saying, “I think it’s going to all come together.”