It’s been at least a decade since Moorhead has had its own butcher to serve the community, but now they have one who is eager to “meat” her neighbors.
Melissa Evans opened She Said Butcher Shop in January, becoming the first female butcher shop owner in Moorhead and joining just a relativity small community of female-owned butcher shops across the state. While Melissa claims she grew up a “city girl,” she remembers helping her father with the deer processing in their garage in her younger years; and I don’t think every city girl can say that. After high school, she came to Fargo and began her studies to become a veterinary tech at North Dakota State University. It wasn’t long after that Melissa found interest in another aspect of animal sciences.
“I was taking some other science-related meat classes, like animal physiology and more,” Melissa explained. “That just flourished, and I loved everything about it.” 88 | MARCH 2022 | FARGOMONTHLY.COM After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in animal science, specializing in meat and food sciences, Melissa began her career at the Northport Hornbacher’s as the assistant manager of the meat department. After a few years, she moved across the river to start as the head of the meat and seafood department at the Moorhead Cashwise. It was around this time that Melissa bought her home in North Moorhead and became a part of the community.
“North Moorhead is such a growing, beautiful community. It’s very neighborly, I love everything about it,” she said. “This was definitely the place where I wanted to start.”
While the idea of owning her own butcher shop first came to Melissa in the early fall of 2020, she didn’t open her doors in her beloved community until the start of 2022.
“I formed a business plan, took it to the bank and they laughed at me and said, ‘there’s no way this will ever happen,’” Melissa said. “I went back to the drawing board, scaled it way back down to the very nittygritty of what I needed, and was able to get funding through myself, my parents, and then there was also the COVID loan, which was the West Central Initiative. “
Melissa said the West Central Initiative loan was called gap protection, meaning she has zero interest for her first two years. She reiterated how beneficial that was to her opening a business.
What do you need to start a butcher shop?
“Well, goals, that’s definitely the biggest one. But it all depends on what route you want to take. Some people want to do custom processing. In that respect, you don’t need all the retail stuff. People will have their animals slaughtered and then they bring them to you, and you take and you break down a half a beef and give them steaks, hamburger things like that. You give it back to them, you don’t sell it retail. I work with Hobart Sales & Services in Fargo, they provided my saw, slicer, vacuum sealer, grinder and knives. I do vacuum sealing of my products, so everything is individually packaged Cryovac so it lasts a lot longer. The average shelf life is 21 or more days for something that’s refrigerated, and in the freezer, it’ll go a year without any sort of freezer burn. When you thaw that product, it’s going to be as good as it went in the freezer a year before.”
What is your favorite cut of meat?
“A ribeye all day long, there are no doubts. Ribeye is the most flavorful piece of meat. Even by itself, it doesn’t need seasoning, no salt, no pepper, nothing. You get a nice char on that outside, and that fat just sizzles right up. It’s drool-worthy, 100%!”
Now that she’s been open for about a month, Melissa has had the chance to see what works, what doesn’t and what she might be missing. A recent success is a meat bundle deal she offered, customers could purchase beef, pork or combo bundles for various prices—and Melissa said they were a hit.
“I’m going to amend them and change things up, add and subtract different products now that I kind of have an idea of how they’re running, but I do want to expand— that’s one thing for sure,” she said. “I want to have a grilling bundle coming out by the end of March for springtime, and I have some really nice steaks and chops, burgers, brats, maybe some sausage for breakfast if you’re out at the lake, meat sticks for Bloody Mary’s.
Where do you get your products from?
“I use a local company, Quality Meats and Seafood, out of West Fargo. Their sister company is Valley Made Meat Products, which is who does the sausage, brats and things like that. I get Certified Angus Beef, that’s a big one for me. CJ’s All Terrain Seasoning is made in Fargo. The meat thermometers are Escali, they’re out of Minnesota. Wherever I can, I try to do it l locally, for the most part, Fargo-Moorhead, but if I have to reach out I try to stay in the Minnesota area. North Dakota is my home but if I’m gonna put money into something I want it to be the state that I’m doing business in and I live in.”
Although Melissa stays humble, she can’t deny that she has a quality that makes her stand out as a butcher and business owner— innovation.
“Right now, it’s what I know. When it comes to butchering, I do have a very limited background, I’ve only been doing it for a number of years. My experience is limited to grocery store cuts, roasts and steaks, not a lot of the extra stuff. Now that I’m doing this on my own, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos and doing a lot of research into how to make different cuts out of muscles that normally you would turn into a roast. There are nine different muscles that meet in the shoulder and you can actually take all those muscles apart and from some of them, you can get a really nice steak out of it. There’s something different to them when you do it that way. I’ve been learning and am ready to get on the table and start destroying a piece of meat,” Melissa laughed. “If I can get some really nice unique cuts out of meat, something that people don’t see in the butcher shops around here, that’d be really cool.”
There are many battles that come with opening and owning a business. To navigate this, Melissa looked to her support system.
“Everybody that helped me here was an association of me in one way, shape or form,” Melissa said. “The plumbing is my uncle’s company, Laney’s Plumbing, so I was able to use his company. One of my really good friends, he’s a master electrician, he did a side job for me for half of what it would have been to get electric done. One of my really good buddies, he was able to come and cut out all the concrete that needed to get done. He laid the slab outside and filled in the concrete and back. I was really fortunate to have people who are close to me, that gave me a really good deal on labor and helped with it. You know, my best friends, we were all here. There were nine of us here one night tearing down walls and stacking things up. [I said] have some drinks and everybody let’s go. Here’s a ham, there’s a beer. Let’s get ’er done!”
It’s been a busy few months for Melissa, but she’s still looking ahead. With the shop’s meats and a friend’s fresh produce, Melissa is planning to host farmer’s markets in the butcher shop’s parking lot this summer, along with some other plans for the future.
What are your goals for the future?
“Chicken and seafood will be coming soon. I would like to get a small smokehouse back in the corner, vented straight outside so everybody driving by can smell that wonderful meat. I also want to have custom processing in the back. Those are the big goals for the future. And as far as business goes, just keep kicking butt, growing and getting the community involved and happy with their meat choices.”
If you’d like to support She Said Butcher Shop, shop local at 324 21st St N, Moorhead, MN 56560 and follow the shop on Facebook at SheSaidButcherShop.