Life, COVID-19, Business, Olympia

How to survive in a pandemic

Long-time wholesale meat market opens retail shop

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It’s been around for nearly five decades, but Tri-City Meats in Olympia has recently added an all-new side to its business by opening a retail counter to sell individual cuts of meat to customers.

This extension of its business was largely in response to COVID-19. The pandemic has taken its toll on business and commerce worldwide, prompting many local businesses to find innovative ways to supplement lost revenue.

Tri-City Meats has been family-owned and operated for generations. Up until two months ago, it’s been a wholesale business, selling large quantities of meat to restaurants, hospitals, retirement homes and other customers.

But when COVID-19 struck, many restaurants which had been customers of Tri-City scaled back their menus or shut their doors. Even now, with Thurston County in Phase 3, restaurants have struggled to fully reopen and many closed permanently. These hardships led to slower business at Tri-City Meats, said owner Scott Stoner. 

Stoner added the new retail counter to make up for some of the lost wholesale clients, he said.

Stoner’s daughter Courtnie McCaslin, who manages the office, said people would often walk in and ask if they could do their meat shopping there. That was part of how they got the idea to open the retail counter. Also, Stoner said, he felt he could help fill a need in the community for high-quality meat products.

Now, a counter is open right inside the front door, where customers can select from fresh cuts of steak, chicken, pork, ground chuck and more. Stoner also sells a variety of frozen meats.

Over two months after opening the new retail store, Tri-City Meats has started getting the word out on Facebook and its new website. While they do have some repeat customers, business has been slower to pick up than they were expecting.

McCaslin said she wishes she could get the word out in other ways, like setting up a booth at local events. But that’s hard to do with safety regulations in place.

“We do hope to extend our hours. It’s something that I think will help a lot,” she said. Currently, the store is open from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday. 

Tri-City Meats has been around since 1971, when Stoner’s father bought the business. It was operating out of a store in Lacey at the time. Stoner’s father was already running a retail meat shop in Burien, and kept both businesses going for a while before moving it all to Thurston County. Tri-City Meats moved to its current Olympia location at 1314 Fones Road SE in 1990. McCaslin marks the fourth generation of this family working in the meat business.

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