Butcher Shopp proprietor Arlen Dodge turned 55 the day I came into his store, and he has been in the trade since he was 15 years old. I met him through my friend and client, Cindy Bridges, who is the owner of Cindy Lou’s Deli in Elkmont. She gets all of her meat from him, and now that I have been there, I have been thoroughly reminded of just what a blessing a genuine butcher shop is. The Butcher Shopp is located in an obscure part of Pulaski, TN, and yes, that is the spelling that Arlen uses just for grins. He offered me birthday cake, took me on a tour of the place, and gave me an education on cuts of meat I didn’t even know I needed.
The Shopp is located in a renovated Quonset hut at 170 9th Street, and the store is busy all day long. Over the door are old album covers from the Monkees, the Beach Boys, Donnie and Marie Osmond, the Partridge Family and other iconic groups from the ‘60s, and there is a “wall of remembrance” for all the members of the cast of the Andy Griffith show. Contrast that with a plethora of Amish vegetables and produce, shelves of homemade “table syrup” and BBQ sauce, catfish caught in KY Lakes, meat hooks with curing hams hanging on them, pink jumbo shrimp from Key West, FL, as well as freshly processed beef soup bones, and you are starting to get an idea of why this place is so popular. It is, on every front, a “blast from the past.”
There are signs that could be fun for bumper stickers: “Eat Beef-The West Wasn’t Won On Salad,” or “Stop And Smell The Sizzle.” The Shopp carries everything you could need for a picnic or a cookout, from the briquettes to the beef to the beverages, but at the end of the day, these guys are the best at answering any and all forms of the question, “Where’s the beef?” Cindy told me the rib eyes are “mwah,” they have a customer who comes in every Friday to order a custom cut 4 inch steak for his wife, and Arlen told me they try to be the “Cheers” of butcher shops—“where everybody knows your name,” and your cut of meat, too. Steaks, chicken, pork, all of it can be cut to order, or you can go to the refrigerator case and pick from that selection if you are in a hurry.
They carry organic and free-range products in a designated case, although they are not the ones who have processed it.
He told me about buying sides of beef. “You have to be careful,” he said, “because you can lose up to 50% of it in waste. We don’t have any waste in our packages.” They also provide free ice for the customer around which to pack their meat so that it is still fresh when they get home.
“We make sausage here, too,” he said, and added, “We’ll make sausage for diabetics that just have sage and black pepper, and we have sodium free bacon.” They have a large Cabela’s brand dehydrator in the back, and make their own jerky. They carry a “six pack” of various cuts of meat for $19.99, and that is all day, every day.
Not all of Arlen’s clients can afford a custom cut 4-inch steak, however, and he prepares packages of various meats for those who are on a tight budget. He has a standing order for a single mom that will get her family through the month for around a hundred bucks. Fancy? No. Well-fed kids? Yes. This man and his family love their clients and their community, and it shows.
“We are a family run business,” Arlen proudly told me. His older sister, Wanda, was dusting the shelves and “facing” the stock. She told me it was Arlen’s birthday, regaled me with stories of when they were kids, and then she winked, making me feel like I had just been invited into the family. Connie is his wife, and keeps the place humming, and the kids are Brian, Dawson, and Mary. The kids are hard workers and when I visited, Dawson was on a mission trip to a reservation in Montana. They are not afraid to let their light shine, and are clearly in the serving business in Pulaski, and beyond.
If you “hunger” for the customer service and great prices of an old fashioned butcher shop, you owe it to yourself to put 170 9th Street, Pulaski TN into your GPS, and make the drive. “Cheers!”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner