STAUNTON — Terri Breeden sits on a padded wire crate, catches burger patties fresh from the meat grinder.
She’s the owner, but that’s how things are done at The Meating Place. Everyone pitches in to get the work done.
Breeden would know. She’s been at the butcher shop over forty years.
“I was still in high school working with the gentleman who is the founder of The Meating Place … J. Frank Clemmer,” she says.
At the time, Clemer was looking someone to wrap meat at night in the basement of his house.
“So after I finished my first job, I went to my second job helping him,” says Breeden.
“That’s where it started … 1976,” she adds, “and from there, we’re here over 40 years later.”
It didn’t take long for the business to move away from that original basement and ultimately to its Middlebrook Road address just outside of Staunton.
And just as that location has remained the same, so have many of the faces.
“I’ve been cutting meat for about 30 years now,” says John Wood Jr. “When I got started, I worked in a grocery store in town.”
That grocery store hit hard times and after two and a half years there, he realized he needed to move on.
“Saw where they were looking for help out here and been out here ever since,” says Wood. “That was in 1988.”
Although the product and service has remained the same, the business model has had to adapt over the years.
When the business first opened, there were no large chain ‘box’ stores, with places like The Meating Place filling the gap as a “Mom and Pop” store.
Folks would stop off on their way home to grab what might be needed for the evening meal.
However, time marched on, and the old-school butcher shop with it.
“Our restaurant sales are still extremely good,” Breeden says. “We have been able to take very good care of a lot of our restaurants in the area.”
Some of those restaurants include Mrs. Rowe’s Family Restaurant and Kathy’s Restaurant in Staunton as well as Tailgate Grill in Waynesboro.
But as for those regular customers still walking through their doors, Wood has a theory.
He slices up a pork loin, moves the thick cut chops to the butcher block and proceeds to cut pockets in each as part of a special order.
“There are still some people left who like to see you doing it,” he says.
“See you working on it, hands on. … They know it’s fresh.”
It leads into one of the reasons Wood loves the job.
“I love the interaction with the customer,” he explains. “That’s probably my favorite part of it.”
“Seeing that they get what they want. Seein ’em happy when they leave. … Seeing ’em happy when they come back.”
— Mike Tripp, photojournalist