SILER CITY — When his grandfather fired up the smoker, Chris Beal’s mouth would begin to water. The smell of the pork wafted throughout the Goldston farmhouse.
The nostalgic bliss of that first bite is what led to Beal’s career in hospitality. Now, he’s bringing that feeling back to his roots.
Beal, a Chatham County native, is the owner of Tribeca Hospitality, which operates three restaurants in the Triangle — Tribeca Tavern, Mash House Brewing and WCC Café. He also owns Chatham Meat Company, which distributes poultry, beef and seafood to those restaurants.
Chatham Meat Co. has a meat market location in Sanford, but Beal is expanding: he’s bringing that concept to Siler City, at 116 W. Raleigh St.
He’ll open Saturday, March 18.
The new market is part of developer Wren Farrar’s revitalization efforts of downtown Siler City. Farrar is the great-grandson of L.L. Wren — one of Siler City’s pioneering, industry leaders of the early 20th century. His company, Wren Industries, has almost finished renovations of several properties from 114 to 120 W. Raleigh St. that will soon house a 16-unit apartment complex and brewery alongside the meat market.
About 90% of the beef that’ll be processed and sold in the facility will come from Chatham County farmers, and the rest will come from Randolph County. That’s something Beal said was especially important to him.
“Our goal is really closing the gap between the farmer and consumer,” Beal said. “That’s how we build a stronger community here.”
In addition to select beef cuts, chicken and seafood, the new market in Siler City will also sell locally made sauces, steak seasonings and sides to accompany the meats customers buy at the shop.
The shop is laid out to prepare all cuts of beef. A large bandsaw sits in the back room alongside an industrial grinder that’ll be used to process the local beef. Beal says the pasture-to-plate process ensures people are getting the best parts of the cow in their ground, not just “the leftover bits.”
“The positive for us is that we have those restaurants,” he said. “Anything we don’t sell here, we’re able to cross-utilize at our other locations.”
Being able to buy the whole animal has proved beneficial for Chatham Meat Co. because nothing needs to go to waste. The new facility is also equipped with two meat freezers and a chamber vacuum machine to give packaged meat a 30-day shelf life.
“For me, this place is about doing something for our community,” he said. “This takes somebody that’s committed locally and understands the town, sees the potential and wants to add value.”
Beal grew up with a farming background and said he was first inspired to start Chatham Meat Co. to bring value to those same local farmers he was raised around. The company attempts to break up the middleman in the farmer-consumer relationship, Beal said.
The Siler City facility also differs from the one in Sanford. The new facility here was built from scratch and specially designed for the needs of Chatham Meat Co. The Sanford facility was previously a butcher shop. The shop’s owner’s focus was purchasing boxed beef from large distributors, which meant less flexibility in the design when Beal took it over.
“It’s more of a market feel than a butcher shop,” Beal said of the Siler City location. “We want to provide the guest with something they can’t get just everywhere else.”
The Sanford shop was Beal’s first time experimenting with the retail side of the meat industry. Before, he was only handling distributors for his restaurants. Chatham Meat Co. prides itself on sticking to an “old-school” way of doing things — getting your hands dirty, feeling pride in your work and, most importantly, knowing where your food comes from.
“Knowing your food, knowing your farmer,” Beal said. “We’re really big on that as a company and to make that a reality I think you have to understand both worlds.”
Chatham Meat Co. wasn’t always a business idea for Beal. It first began when the COVID-19 pandemic upended the meat industry. He said he struggled to bring enough beef in for his restaurants from distributors.
Meanwhile, he was leasing a cattle pasture in Silk Hope to a friend who owned beef cows.
“This is crazy,” he thought. “I’m looking at it every day, but I can’t bring it to the customer and make money on it.”
When he got fed up with staring at the cash cow from the window, he got connected with Abdul Chaudhry, owner of Chaudhry Halal Meats. Chaudhry told Beal he was swamped, but he would help him butcher the beef.
“I told him, ‘That’s fine, just get us those big pieces of beef and we’ll figure it out,’” Beal said.
In that figuring out, Beal and Tribeca’s Executive Chef Scott Jankovictz created Chatham Meat Co. Beal said it’s been a long journey, but he’s learned how to make it a valuable experience, and something he’s more passionate about giving to the customer.
“We could’ve brought this to Cary or somewhere with a big market and we know we would’ve been successful,” he said. “But that’s not what we’re about. We want to add value where we’re at.”
Jancovitz said the meat at the market would be affordable for locals, but buying local meat does come with a higer price tag. He said, however, knowing that dollar is going directly to the farmers — along with the superior taste — is worth any extra cost.
The meat market is just the latest in a string of growth in downtown Siler City. Last July, Down Town Café opened its doors, and more businesses appear to be on the way. Farrar’s vision for the space is to revitalize the downtown and create community spaces to spark engagement, he previously told the News + Record.
“We’re very excited for the future of Siler City, and we’re excited to be in a position where we can do this redevelopment and contribute to the revitalization efforts,” Farrar said in October 2021, when the project first made headway.
Beal said the excitement around town is beneficial because it can help create a circular economy. Supporting a farmer in the community means the money stays local, instead of leaving the community.
“We’re a part of the development and growth in this area, but we’re also supporting the farmers that are here right now,” he said. “We’re helping the people that are farming here and want to keep their land instead of developing it.”
Chatham Meat Co. will host its grand opening at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The event is open to the public. Chatham Meat Co. will be open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each Monday through Saturday, and closed on Sundays.