Stillman Quality Meats is set to open in the Canal District next week, whether Kate Stillman likes it or not.
“I actually kept saying, oh, we’ll be fine; I just don’t want this to open up at Thanksgiving. But, you know what? It’s going to collide – full on rocket ship,” she told Mass Foodies last week at Stillman Quality Meats’ processing facility in Hardwick, Massachusetts.
The retail store is located at 157 Harding Street, adjacent to Page Boy and The Queen’s Cups. Opening hours will span Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“We had discussed a couple of different locations, but it was Renee [King] at the Queen’s Cups who talked me into that spot,” Stillman explained. In addition to farm-raised meats, the shop will feature artisan cheeses, provisions, and fish from Red’s Best – an organization dedicated to reducing the distance between consumers and local fishermen.
The shop will also carry Rose 32 products, “And not in a small way,” Stillman adds, referring to Hardwick’s notoriously popular bakery, operated by Glenn and Cindy Mitchell.
Stillman has worked the Boston farmers market circuit for over 25 years, a remarkable feat considering she’s only 37. When she signed a contract with the Boston Public Market a few years back, it seemed like a no-brainer. She ramped up production at the farm and fearlessly forged ahead. The Market required attention 7 days a week, most days, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and that’s not counting the 80 mile drive either way.
“I guess, ultimately we decided, I’m a single mom with two young kids. One day, I realized my quality of life had completely been diminished. The kids began to think that the dinner table was naked without a computer on it,” she said. In addition to the impact on her family, she also felt a rift in the sense of community she desired in her work.
“We knew Boston wasn’t sustainable for our model of business. I’m very hands on. I want to get to know all of my customers because we produce this really awesome product,” Stillman shared.
Everybody kept asking her the same thing: Have you looked at Worcester?
“I just never did,” she admitted, explaining, “I was working, driving to Boston every day, and the most I saw of Worcester was from the Pike.”
Finally, in April, she took a detour to the Canal District. “It’s funny, the minute I parked and started walking around, I just had a feeling – one of those vibes,” Stillman recalled. She made the decision to focus her retail efforts in Worcester within 24 hours of her visit.
Stillman knew her employees would appreciate the move. She explained, “I had pretty much traumatized my entire crew making them drive 80 miles into the city of Boston every day and taking an hour to park.”
(She estimates that she has bribed nearly every parking attendant in the city of Boston with packages of bacon and fresh tomatoes.)
The Worcester shop will allow her to flex her culinary muscles. “We had a very narrow lane that we were required to stay in at the Boston Public Market. I found it too restrictive,” Stillman said.
After five years building up the Hardwick processing facility, she had worked out an awesome chorizo recipe and a unique charcuterie program. She knew it was time to harness the full potential of Stillman Quality Meats; it was time to come to Worcester.