Well, the local Homestead Butcher Shop over on Route 22 in Lebanon, NJ closed last month.

Below is their farewell letter to customers:

“Thank you to all of you that were supporters, not for the rewards program, but because you felt we provided a great product at a reasonable price, in a clean environment by friendly people.

We have truly loved being here, and it is very upsetting, but we have had to make the hard decision to close after a weekend of dismal sales capping off a 4-month decline. There is no way we can now meet our business responsibilities, let alone our personal financial responsibilities that have been neglected for the last 4 months, hoping that business will improve.

We will be open until the product we have is gone. We will offer a 10% discount on all purchases. We also have fixtures, the soup cabinet/kettles, TVs and decorations that will be available for sale as well.

We are greatly saddened by this, but will remember fondly the people we have met.”

What caused the Homestead Butcher Shop to close so soon?

We always find these occurrences both sad and fascinating. Because we want to understand the dynamics at play.

Why do butcher shops like the Chester Meat Market thrive – while others fail?

Below are some possible reasons.

  • Location. This area on the last “leg” of Route 22 before it merges with Route 78 on the way to Phillipsburg is relatively sparse. That is a possibility. But then why do places like Metropolitan Seafood thrive? One theory is that meat is much more commoditized (i.e., available in abundance at local supermarkets). While Metropolitan specialized in high-quality fish unavailable at most places.
  • Bad signage. We mentioned this to the shop-owners at Homestead the moment we met them. Their sign sucked. It looked like a 5-year old splashed paint all over. Had no connection with drivers passing by. Apparently this was a major cost – and they didn’t want to invest in proper image management.
  • Difficult zoning. Another possible reason may have been from an uncooperative city. Towns have all sorts of “rules” they have imposed. This made it difficult for Homestead to try and boost awareness because they’d be in “violation” of some decreed law or regulation. Then again, a lot of local residents would probably also shun “excess” signage. But how do you raise awareness otherwise?
  • Intangibles. Who knows. We didn’t shop there as much as we would have liked – because of their hours. Local supermarkets are open until 10pm or even longer. Also – the price/value proposition wasn’t compelling enough for us to make the extra effort (especially when ShopRite has Pat LaFrieda – and other supermarkets sell 80% ground beef often for around $2 a pound. How do you compete?)

Bad timing?

One other aspect may have been simply bad timing.

It appears that much of the country is getting hung-up on “plant-based” garbage meat replacements (like Beyond Burger, etc.) And while the Carnivore Diet is gaining steam – it hasn’t been adopted widely enough to have helped Homestead.

It’s hard to say what did them in – but it’s too bad they didn’t make it. It was admirable for them to try – that is for sure.

Maybe the next tenant can make something happen at this location that hasn’t had much luck over the past few years.

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NJroute22 (site admin) is an avid traveler along NJ Route 22 (and almost all of central New Jersey!) Family man, pet lover, and property owner who has a natural curiosity for everything around.

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