“There are plenty of butchers in the world,” says Butcher Girls co-owner Jocelyn Guest. “A lot of people can take apart an animal, but I think what hopefully sets us apart is that we’re there to answer your emails and texts whenever, and help empower you in the kitchen.”
Guest is talking about her and and her partner — in business and in life — Erika Nakamura’s weekly and monthly subscription omakase meat box service, where customers in the Tri-state area can sign up to get weekly or monthly boxes of meat selected by the duo in their shop in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The two women have more than 20 years of butchering experience between them, and decided to start their business when they realized they wanted to support the food system in a way they felt passionate about — educating their customers on local, sustainable, and humanely sourced meat. “There isn’t really a moment when you’re not learning,” says Nakamura of why she’s drawn to the art of butchery.
The Butcher Girls pride themselves on their close relationships with their subscribers, and their ability to tailor each box to their individual preferences. Each customer must fill out a questionnaire before they even sign up for a box, which Guest says was designed “to mimic the experience of speaking to someone over the counter.” The duo remember things like which customers’ boxes were full of cuts for braises one week so that they can send them more grill cuts the following week, and which customers might need a little more hand-holding. “We have a pretty good idea of who they are,” Guest says.
“When we put the business together, and made a conscious decision to make it an online business, we thought that it was going to take away the intimacy that we have with our customers,” adds Nakamura. “But I do also have to say that I get that same interaction over email, and over text, and over the phone, and I feel a closeness to my customers that I don’t know that I’ve ever actually felt in the past. So that’s really nice.”
When they’re not interacting with customers, the two are breaking down whole animals, making terrines and sausages, and spending time as a family with their daughter, Nina, who has changed how they both approach a work-life balance. Because there isn’t a retail-facing shop, the two enjoy the fact that they can do much of their work answering emails at home, while condensing their time in the shop into fewer days a week.
The two also realize their business is fueled by so many experiences, from their experience as butchers, as members of the LGBTQ community, as women, as small business owners, and as queer moms. “Being Nina’s parent frickin’ rules,” says Nakamura. “I think it’s important for people to see queer people as people … But while we’re at it, let’s be the best queer parents we can ever be. Because what we want to do is celebrate [Nina] and who she is, for the same reasons we celebrate ourselves.”