Hillsboro's 'Meating Place' reinvents itself into modern enterprise
Pushing open the door to The Meating Place in Hillsboro, the first thing customers see is a gleaming display case with nary a smudge or smear on the glass.
Row upon row of neatly stacked sausages, pepperoni sticks, pepper steaks and stuffed pork chops — among dozens of other delicacies — meet their eyes and tempt their palates.
Those same eyes soon light on David Quinn, the gregarious guardian of the cold case, who sports an epic red beard and colorful tattoos up and down both forearms.
Quinn, who lives in Aloha, has worked for the locally owned butcher shop on the corner of Northwest Cornelius Pass Road and West Union Road since 2013. He stands sentry over the case, ensuring its visual perfection. He greets each person who walks in — "this place is customer-driven ... the relationships make it work," he says.
The company's products — all cut, dried, smoked or otherwise prepared on-site — practically sell themselves, Quinn says, adding that appearances count. "I'm the aesthetics guy," he notes.
A PLACE TO MEAT
What: The Meating Place butcher shop and café
Where: 6495 N.W. Cornelius Pass Road, Hillsboro
Hours: Retail butcher shop — Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
Café — Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Info: meatingplacepdx.com or 503-533-0624
The business, owned by Beaverton resident Casey Miller, is a far cry from its original incarnation. The Meating Place is actually four entities in one — a retail store, a café, a custom meat-cutting shop and a mobile slaughtering service, which processes animals at farms and ranches across Washington, Yamhill and Columbia counties.
But the enterprise wouldn't be what it is today — a busy, bustling business that employs 22 people — if it hadn't been for Steve Crossley, the original founder of The Meating Place, which operated just north of the Sunset Highway off Northwest 185th Avenue from 1974 to 1998.
For 24 years Crossley, 71, ran a popular "old-fashioned meat market" that sported an adjacent smokehouse. He hired Miller when he was a 16-year-old Westview High School student looking for a part-time job.
"The first time this kid came in, I said, 'Why don't you come back next year?'" Crossley recalled, giving Miller a sly smile and a nudge. "Well, he came back, I hired him, and the rest is history. There was something about him I liked."
Miller started out pushing a broom, but soon learned the art of meat cutting, working as Crossley's head meat cutter for 12 years.
In 2002, four years after shuttering his original store, Crossley opened a custom meat-cutting shop behind the auction house on property adjacent to the current Meating Place. It was open six months out of the year, with Crossley off fishing and hunting the other six months.
Miller and Crossley stayed in touch, eventually cooking up a plan to re-open The Meating Place at its current location in 2011.
Neither man dreamed the business would explode the way it has.
"At first, it was a very small operation," Miller said. "But we're almost doubling our business year after year."
Customers who loved Crossley's old butcher shop migrated to Miller's new one, and word-of-mouth kept the momentum going. Soon, Miller was negotiating with landlords to expand into additional space in the same building — the entities now occupy 7,000 square feet — and opened the café in 2014. On summer days, the lunch spot has hungry customers lined up outside the door.
If business stays on its upward trajectory, Miller hopes to put plans for expansion into play over the next couple of years.
"I'd like to build a completely new building with a state-of-the-art design and an old-fashioned butcher shop facade," he said, pointing north toward the auction house that sits on the property. "We're out of room to grow any more."
Miller also envisions converting the current café space into "a high-end steakhouse" someday.
Crossley, for one, is amazed.
"My goal was just to try and run a business that answered a certain demand," he said. "I was never as aggressive as Casey."
The twosome, who regard each other as "more like father and son" than former co-workers, still enjoy bouncing ideas off each other.
"I'm kind of the advisory team," Crossley said with a chuckle. "I tell him what to do, and he doesn't listen."
These days Crossley is content to function as the shop's founder emeritus.
"All the employees know him," said Miller.
"It's great. I get to see a lot of my former customers," added Crossley.
Miller said he enjoys cultivating "a fun place to work" for his employees. Words scrawled in felt pen on a piece of butcher paper hanging near the meat case in his shop demonstrate a sense of humor that keeps everyone from taking themselves too seriously, he added.
"Fact: Vegetarians live nine years longer than meat eaters," the message reads. "Nine long, horrible, worthless, baconless years."
For Miller, who's happy to operate a growing local business in a post-recession climate, life couldn't be better or more exciting.
"Being a family-owned business in an era of big corporations is satisfying," he said. "I don't sleep a lot, but it's worth it."
And for Crossley, who said he spent 22 years working long hours six days a week, things couldn't have turned out better, either.
"Casey pushed to get in, and I'm glad he did," Crossley said. "I got to retire."
By Nancy Townsley
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