Allison Hines, Butcher Betties
Allison Hines is an apprentice at Avril Bleh & Sons Meat Market, and the founder of Butcher Betties. She plans to launch the pin-up-inspired butcher shop in late 2014.
How did you get started?
Basically, I lost my job. I had been a corporate chef, and we were trying to figure out what to do with this opportunity, my husband and I. We'd talked about starting a business for a long time. We sat down and wrote a list: What can I do, what am I good at and what do I love to do?
So, how did you end up with Butcher Betties?
We wrote down food, chef, etc., and then I started getting into the things I love and truly miss: butchery, vintage, rockabilly and pinup. I took the words "butcher" and "betty"—a betty is a traditional pin-up girl, a fun, good-looking girl who's fun to hang out with and dresses cool—and that became Butcher Betties. The goal was to open my own shop and to empower women if that's something they wanted to learn. It's not a very female-dominated world, obviously. So, that's the ultimate goal, and that's what we're still looking to do.
First, I needed to learn and I needed an internship. During that internship I came up with some product ideas to do a soft opening, and now I have a retail partnership with Avril Bleh & Sons Meat Market
And you’re also a veteran.
Pin-ups started in WWII, and one of the things I'm most proud of is having four generations of women in my family, going back to WWII, the WAVES, who were in the navy. My uncle is the current chief of naval operations. I have had three aunts, three uncles, six cousins in. My uncle, who's in charge of the navy, his wife is also in. And the GI Bill put me through culinary school. That's what started the whole thing. I'm more proud of my service than of anything.
What's it like to become a butcher?
You're making sausage and I'm actually nursing a serious slicer wound right now. I have a hoof-print scar on my hindquarter from a lifting a side of beef. It's me and about eight guys, and it's a lot of knives and all of that. But it's therapeutic to me. It's almost like dissection. You're trying to make surgical cuts—and this represents a lot of money. If you make the wrong cut, you're going to lose a lot of money, especially on a tenderloin or a ribeye.
How long does it take to learn?
Interestingly enough, there is no meat cutting school in the country at all. Not one. You can do internships, which is kind of an old European way of learning, with apprenticeships, but even in culinary school, you only learn the basics. Nobody's breaking down whole sides of beef or hogs.
I've been fortunate that Avril Bleh was willing to let me get in and work. But this is a different side of food service. Usually, it takes about 18 months. I've been doing it for about six months now.
What makes you special?
People are curious about a female butcher and my partnership with my products, but also my partnership with Avril Bleh. When I open my own shop, I'll continue that partnership because nobody does it better. They bring in a local side of beef from Loveland, hogs from Georgetown, and we're literally doing a whole animal breakdown. We know where the animal comes from, what it eats, how it's taken care of; we know the farmer. That's hard to find. We're still hand-making sausage.
I've seen them open the doors on days they're closed to take care of people that've been coming for 60 years, and they know everybody's name. I will continue that in my shop, because what sets you apart is the way you take care of people.
You recently participated in SpringBoard classes. What did you learn?
It was wonderful. The platform that I really, really liked was not only the information you got, but that you weren't just in a classroom setting. You were essentially getting feedback from peers andmentors, and help with communication skills in the Cincinnati business world, and that really proved extremely helpful.
What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?
If it seems like, you know, an old boys club, it doesn't have to be. If you approach anything with passion, you can do anything. It doesn't matter if it's a male-dominated field, or something that seems completely off the wall. If you approach anything with enough passion, drive and hard work, anybody can accomplish anything. I'm proud to be a part of Cincinnati. I'm not from here, but I've made this my home, and I will be here forever.
Interview by Robin Donovan