MILFORD — After being laid off from Stop & Shop when the grocery chain pulled its stores out of New Hampshire, meat department managers Sterling "Tex" Trumphour and Dave McLeod have decided to put their skills to work for themselves and have opened a shop called Two Happy Butchers.
In a space on Elm Street that has been empty since a former bakery closed several years ago, Trumphour and McLeod have created the kind of butcher shop they've always dreamed of running.
"This is what we've always wanted to do," McLeod said. "We just had to take the leap."
Trumphour and McLeod came to New Hampshire seven years ago when Stop & Shop asked them to help train meat department managers and staff, and they eventually settled at the Milford store. Both men have been working with meat all their lives and have a combined total of 75 years experience between them, Trumphour said.
In August, the two butchers were informed that Stop & Shop was closing down its seven stores in New Hampshire and were told they had three weeks of work left before being laid off.
"It was a smack upside the head," Trumphour said. "It was scary."
Finding new jobs among local grocery stores was tough."We were told we were overqualified," Trumphour said. "They wanted young bloods to take and develop the way they wanted things done, not the way Stop & Shop did things. And they didn't want to pay the money we were making."
Trumphour and McLeod spent a lot of time talking on the phone, and one day they decided to take their fates into their own hands. They started driving around looking for places to put a shop, exploring Bedford, Nashua and other towns in the region. But when they found the spot in a shopping plaza at 222 Elm St., they knew they were home.
"It was a big gamble," McLeod said. "We were scared."
But they jumped in and soon found themselves surrounded by support. Once they heard a butcher shop was opening in town, officials came and walked Trumphour and McLeod through the permitting process, Trumphour said."The town stepped in and helped us every step of the way," he said.
Folks with knowledge about running small businesses offered help and information, and in the two and a half weeks since they've been open, the two happy butchers have been listening carefully to their customers so they can meet their needs, Trumphour said.
"We're meat guys. We've never owned businesses before," he said. "We want to make sure we're doing it right and giving our customers what they want."
Donnie Caisse said he drove up from Temple to visit the shop at his wife's request last week, and on Thursday, he was back for more.
"I like having a real butcher shop nearby," he said.
The shop has Boar's Head products, which are hard to find in Milford since Stop & Shop shut down. They also carry 1855 Black Angus Beef, and offer a wide variety of cuts along with marinated and seasoned meats and poultry, handmade sausage, roasts, and even some vegetables here and there.
Trumphour said they are trying to offer products at competitive prices, and sell special meat packages featuring various cuts, including a Christmas package that comes with a free ham. And the butchers are always willing to custom cut meat.
Two Happy Butchers is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. For information call 554-1339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.