ALBURGH — A small blue shop has popped up on Martell Road in Alburgh, and one look inside will have any carnivore salivating.
“I only buy top-quality meats from local farms,” said co-owner and co-founder Leonard Martell. “This is my blood.”
Martell Meats looks hardly large enough from the outside to be able to fit all of the meaty treasures on the inside, but the modest store is neatly outfitted with bright, clean new coolers that are stacked meticulously with local, expertly-raised cuts of pork, lamb, goat and beef.
Martell and his girlfriend and business partner, Betty Theisen, run the shop themselves. The couple hopes to eventually become a one-stop shop for local, top-quality meats after they complete the construction of their future slaughterhouse located just behind the store.
Martell is hardly new to the meat industry. As a fourth-generation full-time cattle dealer by trade, Martell was raised in the occupation since he was a young man by his father, Steve Martell, and still operates as a cattle dealer providing services to slaughterhouses and local farmers for meat processing.
“Those were some long hours,” Martell said of his early years as a cattle dealer.
He’s been in every step of the industry, and the construction and opening of their new shop is one more aspect of their longtime dream: a place of their own, where they can bring the highest-quality local meats and fresh, local products to the community for a fair price without middle men.
Eventually, Theisen and Martell said their full dream will come to fruition: a combination of slaughterhouse, meat cutting and wrapping, a butcher shop and meat counter and retail area for people to pick up their own custom cuts and sausages.
“We could bring it here live, process it here — because I can do it — and then just carry it across the yard,” Martell said.
Which is where Theisen’s skills come in: Martell said his partner has years of experience wrapping meats, labels and mixing spices for their custom recipes, and culinarians can look forward to original recipes from the couple.
Additionally, Martell and Theisen are sport hunters with a taste for game, and if the market demanded it, Martell said he would look to potentially stock venison, elk, and game imports from reserves down south.
For now, visitors can marvel at the numerous game trophies hung proudly on the walls of the store, testaments to Martell and Theisen’s passion for hunting.
Though the onset of COVID-19 has slowed the permit process for building their slaughterhouse, both Martell and Theisen said they’re looking forward to resuming their build and getting their dream up and running.
As a cattle dealer, Martell said he currently has to ship animals out of state to be processed, but is hoping that with the construction of a new slaughterhouse, the processing will become local, eliminating the need for excess gas, travel and other expenses.
Their markets, Martell said, span the whole of New England with more opportunities to come.
“I would have to say an animal in somebody’s barn goes through probably eight people before it gets to the grocery store,” Martell said. “It’s eight hours (transportation) to the slaughterhouse...but if they don’t make it to the slaughterhouse or if they can’t walk off the truck, they are not for human consumption.”
Eliminating the risk of death en-route by creating a local slaughterhouse option better ensures that the farmer is going to receive monetary reimbursement, which makes money for both the farmer and the dealer.
Disagreements between dealers and farmers, Martell said, can happen every week.
Whether it’s dealing, slaughtering, butchering, wrapping or selling, Theisen and Martell know how to do it all, and they can even build their facility with their own two hands.
In the future though, Martell and Theisen said they’ve factored job creation into their plans, and will eventually be hiring.
“We’re going to start it off family style,” Martell said. “But in the future, I can see us bringing on some more people.”