In late-April, a Heather Thomason opened a shop called Primal Supply Meats on East Passyunk Avenue. Heather entered the meat industry after spending much of her career as a graphic designer. As a home cook and member of a local food co-op, she felt connected to her local community of farmers. Through those interactions, she began thinking about how she could make an impact on the food economy. “I had a crazy idea that maybe if I could learn to craft a butchery, I could have a business solution that would be an outlet and solve some of the logistical problems farmers face,” she says.

Heather Thomason of Primal Supply Meats preparing meat in her South Philadelphia butcher shop.

This idea led her to move across the country to California to apprentice with an experienced butcher. After a few years spent learning and mastering the craft, Heather came to Philadelphia to work as head butcher for the restaurant Kensington Quarters. The move back to the east coast cemented her plans to launch her own business, Primal Supply Meats. The business began first as a wholesaler to local restaurants and through a subscription plan called the butcher’s club. She has now expanded the operation with the local shop in South Philadelphia.

A business based around community building

Primal Supply Meats is dedicated to supporting local farmers. Heather sources the grass-fed, sustainably-farmed meats from a network of 12 livestock farmers in the region. “I work directly with the farmers to understand their land and their animals, and we commit to buying whole animals from them,” Heather adds. “It’s great for the farmers because they can kind of focus on farming and not going out to sell parts and pieces of the animals that they raise.”

In addition to the meat she prepares and sells, the shop stocks other local food products, including a selection of produce from Fishtown-based Riverwards Produce.

Primal Supply Meats is dedicated to sustaining local connections, not just through its food. When launching this new shop, Heather kept things local with her contractor and other personal touches in the shop.

The neighborhood loves us,” Heather expresses. “You hang your sign, and you open your door, and you hope that people are going to come in and visit your business. When the neighborhood walks in and welcomes us, I think we’re doing it right.”

Beautifying the shop’s exterior with Storefront Improvement Program

When renovating the storefront to open in the spring of 2018, Heather utilized City resources to get started. The Storefront Improvement Program (SIP) helped her make changes to the business’s facade. The exterior of Primal Supply Meats on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia. This grant reimburses business and property owners up to 50 percent of the cost of eligible improvements up to $10,000.

Heather worked with a local organization, Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation (PARC), to submit her SIP application. “PARC handled the painting and I had a local sign maker put a hand painted wooden sign outside.” Together, they updated the formerly yellow storefront to a clean, white and red facade to match Primal’s branding.

Expanding the business

In a year, the workforce at Primal Supply Meats has expanded from 4 people to 15. Heather is continuing to grow her business by moving the manufacturing and production facility to a larger space.

“Moving to the newer location that will be our production facility in Brewerytown is a big step for us,” she says. “Hopefully we’ll be able to serve more restaurants and wholesale accounts and work with more small businesses to host butcher’s clubs.” Down the road this will mean offering cooked products to customers, hosting events, and eventually, another retail space.