There is nothing like food to bring a family together, and for the owners of Railway Station Specialty Meats and Deli nothing could be closer to the truth.
Betty Peterson and Barry Jones aren’t just the owners of Railway Meats, they are brother and sister.
“We fight, but I’m the older one so I always win the fights,” says Peterson with a laugh.
They were born and raised in Nelson, but after buying a gym Jones moved up to Tumbler Ridge.
“My other sister had a grocery store in Tumbler Ridge. We ended up selling the gym, and I was in the grocery business, and it was a small store and it was a small community so I had to learn to do everything including how to butcher meat, it was necessity more than anything,” he says.
Like her brother, Peterson had no prior experience as a butcher.
“I ran the Chevron station for years and years, and they closed it down. We had to do something, and we decided this would be a good thing because there was no butcher in town,” she says.
Jones and his family moved back home soon after and the siblings began working together.
When Railway Meats first moved into their location at the west end of Baker Street their only neighbour was Sunsport, but they were convinced that with the upgrades to the neighbourhood promised even six years ago, that more business would come.
Jones learned to be a butcher by filling in at the grocery store, but he also learned from a long time butcher who worked with him.
“He showed me a few things, and he was close to retirement, so he moved away and I fell into it more or less. When we closed the grocery store I worked in a meat shop where they did custom cutting like moose and hanging meat,” he says.
Since Railway Meats opened, they have made a name for themselves with sausage lovers.
“I had no idea, even after 30 years working in grocery stores, the market for sausages,” says Jones.
Railway Meats makes 25 kinds of fresh sausages and Jones says they could probably sell 100 varieties if they had the space.
“We make smoked sausages as well, like pepperoni and garlic sausage. I think people like to come in and know what’s in it and how it’s produced. We use really good quality product and they aren’t that fatty. There has to be a little bit of fat to make them moist, tender and juicy. And if people want to know what they are made out of they can come back and see,” says Jones.
Railway Meats also smokes 80 to 85 per cent of all their smoked products including bacon, ham, smokies and smoked turkey.
“People seem to like the idea that they know what’s in it and how it’s made,” says Jones.
When Railway Meats opened, Jones says they carried all the wrong things.
“Not so much the meat. We had the meat that you could find anywhere else, and it was fine and we trimmed it nicely, but we didn’t have the impact like we have now since we went on the licensing program,” he says.
They also weren’t ready for how much they would have to make themselves.
“We make meat pies, I never would have thought we’d sell that many meat pies,” says Jones.
Peterson says they thought customers would also be more price conscious than they are.
“We were trying to compete with grocery stores. They have the flyer programs with deep discounts, but on the average week our pricing is probably about the same,” she says.
As consumers become more aware of what they’re eating, Jones says he is staring to notice that customers are coming in asking for organic, grain-fed, or hormone and anti-biotic free.
“I think it is changing slowly, we get those questions all the time, and we tell people what we have to offer like hormone and anti-biotic free chickens, lamb, buffalo, and we can get organic beef,” he says.
But for Jones and Peterson the priority is quality and providing a good eating experience for their customers, and organic doesn’t always mean quality.
“People are fooled by that word ‘organic,’” says Peterson.
The beef sold at Railway Meats is the top eight per cent of Angus Beef and they are the only butchers in the West Kootenay that sell it.
“What we carry in the case is the top grade of product,” says Jones. “The people that are looking for a good eating experience, especially as far as beef and chicken, they are looking for quality and consistency.”
As food trends progress, Railway Meats is getting more requests for the unusual cuts like ox tail, brisket and flank steak.
“We carry them, and as long as people give us a bit of lead time, most items, we can get,” he says.
Railway Meats is located in the lower end of Baker Street.