Walden Local Meat Co. Opens a Boston Store
The four-year-old company works with a network of sustainable farms in the Northeast.
Charley Cummings got into the meat industry a handful of years ago with a direct-to-consumer share program, the original Walden Local Meat Co. While the goal was always not just to provide home cooks with high-quality products, but also to educate them about choices they can make while eating meat, a storefront wasn’t in his original business plan.
But now it most certainly is: Walden Local Meat Co. quietly opened a Boston shop this week, and is celebrating its grand opening all weekend long. Located on the corner of Shawmut Ave. and Union Park in the South End, it’s a small butcher shop with a wide variety of cuts of antibiotic-free, sustainably raised chicken, pork, beef, and lamb. It sells house-made sausages, specialty products like schnitzel; marinades, sauces, spices, and soon, beer and wine.
“It’s also a place in which we can tell our story, talk about the different farms we work with and how they produce animals differently, and provide education on how to cook all these different cuts,” Cummings says.
At Walden Local Meat Co., customers can get up close and personal with their dinner. Whole sides of animals are hanging from hooks inside the storefront and coolers, and head butcher Tommy Trainor (Babbo Pizzeria) might even be breaking them down while guests shop around.
“It’s a regular part of the routine,” Cummings says. “The idea is not to be the sort of environment where you’re intimidated and you don’t feel comfortable asking questions. [The team is] incredibly helpful at talking through various cuts. The perfect type of customer wants to learn about new and different things.”
Cummings, a former management consultant, has always been interested in agriculture and energy, and environmental problems related two those areas, he says. But he and his wife, Kristen, launched Walden Local Meat Co. four years ago after eating just really good chicken from a neighbor’s farm. It was a “chickeny” chicken, as the venerable Julia Child would have said.
“I have always looked for ways to use business not just to minimize environmental harm, but to contribute to solutions,” he says. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Walden Local Meat Co. partners with about 75 different farms in New England and New York, including Clifford Waters Farm in Athol, Maplewind Farm in Richmond, Vt., and Sugar River Farm in Newport, N.H. It has a distribution center in Billerica, where it packages products for its network of subscribers; think of its direct-to-consumer branch as community supported agriculture. It also has a handful of wholesale restaurant clients, Cummings says.
The idea to open a store started about a year ago, Cummings says, and the company is “lucky” to have found the Shawmut Ave. location.
“We not only have a lot of existing members [in the area], but we got great feedback from the community [during the planning process]. There is real awareness in that part of the city, and in Boston as a whole, of where their food comes from,” he says.
And with neighbors like Formaggio Kitchen, the Wholy Grain Bakery Cafe, and many top restaurants, it’s exciting. “There are so many interesting specialty retailers in that area, it’s almost developing a Parisian feel to it where you can grab everything you need for a meal on your way home,” Cummings says.
He’s hopeful that as Walden Local Meat Co. gets its footing, there will be opportunities to collaborate with them, he adds.
In the meantime, the local company is ready to meet everyone else in the neighborhood. Walden Local Meat Co.’s grand opening weekend begins Friday, Nov. 3, at noon. Going forward, it’s open Monday-Saturday from noon-8 p.m., and Sundays from noon-5 p.m.
316 Shawmut Ave., South End, Boston, 857-277-0773, waldenlocalmeat.com.