Most people wouldn't think pin-up girls, rockabilly and butchery go together, but that trio is a winning combination for Butcher Betties
Allison Hines operates her butcher shop inside the Friendly Market
in Florence (10050 Norbotten Drive) six days a week, but this week brings several opportunities to expand her vision. First up is the ArtWorks Big Pitch
finals on Thursday, Aug. 27, where Butcher Betties will compete for $20,000 in cash and services, and then she opens her first Ohio shops over the weekend.
It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Hines, who lost her job as a corporate chef and decided to pursue an interest in butchery.
“I wanted to learn butchery, but there was no school to go to,” she says. “They don't teach whole animal butchery in culinary school any more.”
After getting a scholarship through Grrls Meat Camp
and attending their Northern Kentucky workshop, Hines approached Avril Bleh & Sons Meat Market
in downtown Cincinnati about becoming an apprentice.
“I walked in and offered to work for free so I could learn the craft of butchery, and they took me in like their family,” Hines says. “I want to be able to create a scholarship or a paid internship so someone can come to my shop or I can send them to the first ever butchery school opening in September in Chicago. I think it’s important to give back and pay it forward.”
That idea led her to apply to ArtWorks’ Big Pitch, a 10-week mentorship program that offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes and professional services. She's one of three Northern Kentucky businesses selected among the eight finalists; the others are Grateful Grahams
and Roebling Point Books & Coffee
, both based in Covington.
Hines had planned on an 18-month apprenticeship with Avril Bleh, but when presented with the opportunity to open her own shop at the Friendly Market she grabbed the chance. Combining her pin-up girl style with her new trade, she created Butcher Betties.
“Women in my family, going back to World War II, have served in the Navy, including myself,” Hines says. “We've embodied strength and femininity. I want other women to know that they can be strong and still be feminine and attractive, and that's what a pin-up girl represents. When you come in to Butcher Betties, you will see me carrying out half a hog and I could be wearing a skirt.”
In addition to a unique brand, Hines also differentiates Butcher Betties from a typical meat counter in her methods and service.
“One of the things that sets us apart is that we’re working with our farmers and producers on finishing off beef with non-GMO grain,” she says. “No one else in town is doing that.”
As much as possible, Hines locally sources all her products, buying whole animals and processing them on-site.
“We make everything in house,” she says. “Salads, goetta, bourbon bacon, bacon burger (bacon ground in with the hamburger meat) and a lot of seasoned burgers like KY Wildcat and Black & Blue burgers.”
Hines is also passionate about educating her customers.
“I use my chef’s background to assist customers with how to cook things and how to use the whole animal,” she says. “I want to teach people that they don’t need to be squeamish. I bring customers back behind the counter to explain the parts of the animal so they can be comfortable with it and learn to cook from the whole animal, to use things like the trotters because they’re beautiful, wonderful pieces that people are just not familiar with.
“If you want good clean food, you have to do it honor and justice by using the whole animal, not just getting steaks and chops. Only one tenderloin comes out of the whole cow.”
Looking for expansion opportunities, Hines is opening Butcher Betties counters inside Keegan’s Seafood stores in Anderson Township and Hyde Park. The new locations debut on Friday, Aug. 28.
She’s also partnering with friend Tricia Houston, Northern Kentucky’s Farm Girl Chef
, to raise two hogs for the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic
“I have a team of mentors helping me through the Big Pitch program,” Hines says. “I meet with them weekly, and they’re helping me keep things focused and moving toward the future while helping me prioritize.”