May 28, 2014 Allie Wenner Uncategorized
It’s 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, and Side Hill Farmers Head Butcher Kevin McCann is still cutting pork chops.
“I’m a little behind today,” McCann said, as he prepares the meat to be put on the top shelf of the glass display case for the day. “This morning I got caught up doing some research.”
McCann explained that recently, there have been a number of customers coming into the shop asking about nitrates and nitrites, and more specifically, whether they’re present in his products. He pulled out a few sheets of paper which were printed earlier that morning.
“The saliva in our mouth contains more nitrates than I will ever put in our bacon,” he said, then pointed to the piece of paper on top. “I love this one right here, it says that if you ate 467 hot dogs, or one serving of arugula, or four servings of celery or just swallowed the spit in your mouth, you’re getting the same amount of nitrates into your system.”
McCann and the rest of the staff at Side Hill Farmers have taken it upon themselves to make the shopping experience as educational and transparent as possible – whether it be about educating people about where their food comes from geographically, where it comes from anatomically or the different processes a butcher uses to make the meat safe – it’s all a part of what makes the market/butcher shop unique.
“Even though customers come in and they want to be able to trust the butcher to cut their meat properly, and to cut their sausage properly, and so forth, they still look at me and say, ‘You’re not a scientist. How do you know these things?’ And I say, ‘Well, I read too. I’m a butcher – I make it my business to know these things,’” McCann said.
‘Just what Manlius needed’
When Side Hill first opened its doors in the plaza behind Sno Top last July, there were three employees and a lot of meat – and that was about it. But over the last year, it has expanded to include almost a dozen employees. Side Hill now also offers more varieties of meat, including beef, pork, poultry and lamb in addition to prepared dishes, such as soups, slaws and sandwiches and a small grocery market, comprised of foods filled by local farmers, many of whom live in Madison County.
According to McCann, it wasn’t difficult to find farmers interested in selling their products at the store. In fact, for many of them, Side Hill was exactly what they had been looking for.
“From the time we first opened our doors, there were about four farmers a week coming in and saying, ‘I’ve got this, I’ve got that,’” McCann said. “Farmers, for a number of years now, have been trying to find better ways to direct-market their product without the middle man and better profit on all of their hard work.”
This enormous interest in the shop has allowed for McCann, Managing Chef Greg Rhoad and Chef Emily Prial to be selective when it comes to offering the best of what Madison County has to offer: milk, yogurt, eggs, butter, produce, jams, jellies, salsa, sauces, honey, granola, coffee and tea are just some of the items stocked on the shelves. The store is filled with pictures of animals on some of the farms whose products are sitting on those shelves, complete with the names of the farmers, the address of the farm and what they produce.
“This whole thing was started to develop and promote economic growth within Madison County and Central New York as a whole,” McCann said. “So these relationships, and working with our farmers is at the very core of what we’re trying to do.”
And it’s not just the farmers who are excited about the shop – the customer base has steadily grown over the last year. McCann said there are some regulars who frequent the shop every day.
“There are some people who come in and say ‘I’ve been saying it for years, this is what Manlius needed, this is what Syracuse needed,’” he said. “And it’s great that there is that group of people here who have made the sociopolitical decision of wanting to buy local and support local and who care about what they’re eating and where it comes from.”
Ever since Side Hill began offering ready-to-serve meals and sandwiches, there has been a divide in its customers. There are those who may want to sit down and eat the food they’ve purchased, and there are those who are there strictly for grocery shopping. Side Hill’s new addition will open up a separate room with a seating area for the former kind of customers.
The expansion will consist of knocking down the wall across from the counter area and creating a new room in the vacant space next door. In addition to the seating, McCann said they’ll be able to expand their retail space in the room and will have more cooler and shelf space to bring in new kinds of meats and other products.
“We’re expanding with the future in mind, so we’re not just trying to meet our current storage needs – this will give us space to continue to grow,” he said.
Additionally, Side Hill hopes to use the space after business hours to hold private dinners, classes on sausage-making, meat breakdown and knife sharpening and cooking classes. McCann hopes that the renovations will be complete by the beginning of July.
As of last Saturday, Side Hill has extended its Saturday hours and is now open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit sidehillfarmers.com.