We've been watching progress on the soon-to-be Barons Meats on Church since Celia Sack of Omnivore Books broke the news that they were taking over the Drewes space. Owner David Samiljan has been hard at work cleaning and renovating, but made some time to tell us more of his plans for the space.
Welcome! Why did you choose Noe Valley for your second location? What connects you to the neighborhood?
It seems that Noe Valley chose me! I wasn't looking for another location, but I heard that the space was available so I inquired with the landlord and all the pieces fell into place very quickly. I tried to say no to the opportunity but it was impossible to turn down. My great-grandfather's shop was right under the ell in Brooklyn. The Church Street location has a lot of the same feel to it. A real neighborhood.
The space at 1706 Church St has a history – it’s reportedly one of the oldest butcher shops in San Francisco. Did that influence your decision to move in?
It was definitely another attractive component of an already attractive situation. The original Baron's Meat & Poultry goes back to at least 1915. To have the opportunity to operate something even older is a wonderful opportunity for us. The building has a lot of history -- the freezer in back is in the old stable where the original butcher on Church Street would have kept his delivery horses. To be connected to that type of history is wonderful.
Who will staff and manage the Church St. location? Will there be a trained chef on site like you have in Alameda?
I will be personally operating the Church St location, so I'll be the chef/butcher in charge. Because I came from kitchens, I tend to hire from kitchens.
We’ve poured over your Alameda website. What will be the same/different about the Church St store?
Yes and more. I have three times the floor space and 16 linear feet more of showcase to fill. But I will let the neighborhood dictate to me what they want. As in Alameda, I'm sure we'll grow organically as we become more in tune with what our customers want. We started as a strictly meat and poultry shop, and then we took on sustainably harvested seafood and shellfish due to customer demand. We now have twice as much room for seafood in the Noe Valley shop, so that's going to be exciting.
Drewes had a rough 20 years before closing, despite a loyal customer base. Will you offer value to the “old Noe” crowd as well as those who can afford the high end?
I consider myself a "neighborhood butcher." I feel as if I'm obligated to give my customers what they ask for, however Baron's has a very strict standard for the products we sell. I will never be the cheapest guy in town, but I will always be the best in town. I stand behind everything I sell. I feed my own family the same meat I'm selling to my customers
Do you want to pursue a stall at the Noe Valley farmers market?
Yes. As soon as I figure out who to talk to about that.
What would you like Noe Valley to know about Barons?
I've been in the food business since 1990. I've been in the meat business since 1996. I've worked in meat processing plants and retail butcher shops and then re-opened my great-grandfather's namesake shop in 2005. Baron's was at the forefront of the "artisan butcher" movement (predating everyone else by at least 2 years). We sell only Organic and Natural Meats. We DO NOT sell any product that receives hormones or antibiotics. We will NOT sell any product that has been raised in confinement. Because I started as a chef, flavor is paramount in selecting a purveyor, as well the humane treatment of the animals themselves. We will not sell an inferior product simply because it was raised next door.
You’ve said you want to focus on opening, adding sandwiches, and then wine/beer. What’s the timeline for those additions?
We had hoped to be open by February 1st. What with cleaning and permitting, that seems unreasonable at this point. Maybe before March? As long as it's before Easter, it'll be OK. It's been wonderful to be in the shop checking up on progress and getting to meet our neighbors walking their dogs. Everyone seems to be as eager as we are to be open. In terms of what items will show up when: Sandwiches, almost right away. Hopefully within a few weeks of opening or even faster than that. Baron's Quality Meats in Alameda has featured a sandwich of the day before, and I've run a sandwich shop in the past, so it's not a stretch. Beer and wine and maybe liquor, will come in after we settle in as a butcher shop. I'll need a dedicated staff to curate a small beer, wine and liquor section and that will take some time to find the right people and have the butcher shop running well.
Will you offer products outside the meat/fish cases?
Yes. I love the Church Produce Market on the corner of 30th, and we've been talking about how best to work together. I'll probably offer a very limited selection of produce in the shop to make it easier to whip up dinner, but I'm not a green grocer at heart! I expect to have dry goods (pasta, mustard, some spice rubs) and some equipment in the store too (brining bags, cheesecloth, etc.)
Does the Church St space have the capacity to store meat for customers like your spare rib purchase plan in Alameda?
Oh yes! Almost 10 times the space. In Alameda we have a program where customers can purchase an entire loin of beef for us to dry age. We trim steaks off as you want. In Noe Valley, I have an entire walk-in refrigerator to devote to dry ageing. (I'm thinking of lining the walls with blocks of salt. We'll see what the budget allows.) In Alameda, we bring in hundreds of fresh turkeys, Heritage breeds, Organic, and Natural for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we have to store them in refrigerated containers outside our shop because our floor space is so limited. Thanksgiving is going to be so much easier this year in San Francisco!
What are your favorite haunts in the neighborhood?
I haven't spent near enough time in the neighborhood yet. So far everywhere I've eaten, gotten coffee or met a business owner or neighbor has been a great experience. But I've eaten at Henry's Hunan more than anywhere else by far. I'll take any recommendation you've got!
Philz, Martha’s, Bernie’s or Starbucks?
Martha's is closest, so in the interest of diplomacy I'll go with Martha's. Oh, and thanks for asking -- I'm trying to make friends, not trigger rivalries! (My wife roots for the A's, and I root for the Giants, so I've got enough "friendly" rivalries in my life, thank you very much!)
|Dave and son testing new blades at Wondercon|