Photo by Patrick Robinson
Tom Salle, working his magic on the grill here, will open Meat the Live Butcher in Seattle this summer.

UPDATE: The ‘Live Butcher,’ purveyor of quality meats and the resurrection of Bernie & Sons, is coming this summer

Hoping to open in July

Update for June 27
The West Seattle Herald first reported in April (see below) that Tom Salle of Bernie and Boys will open his own butcher shop near the Seattle/White Center line.

Salle was hoping to be open in time for July 4 festivities, but it looks like we'll all have to wait just a bit longer.

Here is his update from Meat the Live Butcher's Facebook page:

Hi everyone I wanted to open by july 1 but won't make that date due to the permits . Maybe later in the month. Thanks for all your support, It keeps me going. New phone number 206 762 MEAT Hope to see you all soon and we can get back to taking care of all your meat needs.

In a followup conversation, Salle said he is moving through the permitting process with the city and getting the final steps together with construction, including the all-important cooler.

"I’m doing what they tell me to do," Salle said of the permitting process. "Yes sir and yes ma’am and how high? It’s just the hoops are getting a little bit smaller for a fat man like me, but I’m getting through them ... In the last two days I’ve had probably 30 customers pull up in their cars (asking when they might open). They are getting really excited and it was good inspiration to keep on working."

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Original story on April 19

Tom Salle will tell you: It takes a community to build a butcher shop.

“It’s amazing,” Salle said while taking short break from the long days of building his shop on 16th Ave S.W., just north of Walgreens on the Seattle side of Roxbury. “I’ve got customers, friends, everybody coming and pitching in to help me here. It is a community effort, I mean, these people want me to get going.”

Working with him on April 17 were a past customer turned good friend and a “brother” from his motorcycle club … just chipping in to get their friend back to doing what he loves most: cutting meat and interacting with customers – a 100 year tradition in his family. His friends were paid for their labor at lunch with homemade sausages and smoked turkey slow cooking in the heart of the activity. It may be the best smelling construction site on record.

Salle is gutting and rebuilding one half of the old Benton Realty building at 9430 16th Ave S.W.and turning it into “Meat the Live Butcher,” a small scale butcher shop focused on quality meats, cheeses and legendary customer service.

With the ever-present “If things go as planned” clause attached, Salle hopes to open up shop on July 1, just in time for those 4th of July barbeques.

For anyone unfamiliar with the name, the Salles have been operating as grocers and butchers in King County since the 1930s when Tom’s grandparents, Nunzio and Carmella, came here from Italy and opened up shop in Tukwila. Nunzio was slain in a robbery in 1952 and his son (Tom’s dad) Bernie was thrown into the spotlight and took his father’s place. Year’s later, in 1995, the family opened Bernie and Sons in the Top Hat neighborhood of North Burien. Bernie passed away in 2004 and the sons, Tom and his brothers, ran the shop with their mother from that time on.

About a year ago they decided to shut down Bernie and Sons – taken as tragedy by many lifelong customers.

“Meat was my thing and we have four generations of customers, people coming from all over the place, and I feel bad because I let them down,” Salle said.

He explained the moniker “Live Butcher” is a family trademark, originating with his dad Bernie who believed customer service was a form of entertainment. The meat counter is their stage and the customers are their audience.

“That’s what separates you from the rest of these cookie-cutters,” he said, “you go to these bigger stores and they don’t care.”

Salle knew he wanted to continue the tradition of bringing meat to the masses, and the opportunity came together after he started attending StartZone classes at Highline Community College (a program to help small-scale entrepreneurs get going) and received a doable offer for the space from Nancy Benton.

Salle provided a preview of what to expect, both in terms of products and atmosphere.

“If you go to a store and ask a guy to cut a porterhouse three inches thick, they are not going to do it. Most of that meat is coming in precut and that’s not what I want,” Salle said. “My whole deal is you can walk in (and say), ‘I need six pork chops and I want them inch-and-a-half with a pocket’ ... no problem.”

Salle said he is going for a “boutique meat market” vibe with deli meats and cheeses in addition to a wide selection of butcher specialties and organic meats. A few items mentioned during our visit included Italian flank rolls, custom kabobs, a slew of different sausages, jerky (his godfather is Art Oberto of Oh Boy! Oberto jerky fame), seasoned rib roast for the holidays, smoked turkey, chorizo, pickled eggs and herring … and the list goes on.

As for atmosphere, Salle explained, “When you walk in it is going to be like coming back into time. It’s going to be black pants, white shirts, bowtie, little paper hat. You walk in, full service counter – I will have no pre-wrapped stuff.”

He plans to adorn the walls with family memorabilia.

“I have a lot of cool things I want to do and I enjoy talking to people,” Salle said. “When they sit down at dinner, I’m there with my products.”

He said he’s looking forward to seeing all of his customers again. For anyone new to the Live Butcher experience, Salle said to simply expect, “Lots of high quality meats and smiles.”

The best way to keep up on Meat the Live Butcher’s progress is to sign up for updates at their website, http://www.meatthelivebutcher.com/index.html, or become a fan on Facebook.

For more history on the Salle family, visit the Bernie & Boys website.

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