BY MARK WEBER, Red Deer Express
Red Deer’s Big Bend Market has seen extraordinary growth since its inception back in 2007. The business took silver in the category of Best Butcher for this year’s Golden Fork Awards.
Owner Ivan Smith was raising bison west of Red Deer and selling the meat at local farmers’ markets. At the end of the season in 2007 he decided he wanted to also provide fresh, naturally raised, hormone and antibiotic- free meats from a central location.
He purchased space in the City’s Southpointe Common and it wasn’t long before word started to spread – rapidly.
Today, producers from around Central Alberta provide product to the business which opened a second location in north Red Deer in the fall of 2009. The north location (#15, 7619 – 50 Ave.)
has a much larger production space and a smaller retail area. Staff at the north store can cut any meat – including wild game.
Meanwhile, customers can purchase beef, bison, poultry, pork, lamb and elk plus sausages made in- store. Fresh turkeys – hormone and antibiotic- free – are also a hot commodity during the holiday season, said Smith during a chat at the Southpointe Common store.
There is also a range of fresh beef, bison and pork jerky, cheeses, daily baked bread, sandwiches, fresh soups, imported spices, a large selection of imported balsamic vinegars and olive oils, and curry sauces and imported Italian pastas. Smith said he wanted to provide products for those with a passion for cooking as well.
Demand for meat that’s free of hormones and antibiotics is growing, he added.
“I would say we’re seeing about 60 per cent growth per year,” he said. “Ninety per cent of our advertising is word- of- mouth and the growth that we’ve seen over the past three years is substantial.”
Smith started out with a staff of three and today there are 14 employees between the two locations. The business is also increasingly providing product to local restaurants and eateries. Ultimately, success stems from providing something unique and fresh to folks who want the natural and healthiest alternatives to their meat selections. Strong customer service is also key.
“I have unbelievable staff who take a lot of pride in what they do,” he said. “The three people I started with are still here. To me, that speaks volumes. There’s something to be said when you come to work and take pride in it, and you know the customers. A lot of them come in and we know them on a firstname basis.”