It’s been six years since Heather Thomason moved from California and established herself as Philly’s Cleaver Queen, spreading the gospel of sustainable whole-animal butchery at Fishtown’s pioneering Kensington Quarters before branching out with Primal Supply Meats. Her butchery operation was a game changer in its own right, as Thomason built it from a farm market stand to a bustling brick-and-mortar shop that’s become a local food hub for East Passyunk Avenue. You can pick up a wedge of Birchrun Blue, a dozen Sweet Amalia oysters, and fresh Lancaster produce to go with your grass-fed local short ribs or cut of bavette.
With new investors, a lineup of butchery classes, and a 2019 expansion into big Brewerytown headquarters, Primal Supply was flying high until COVID-19 brought its wholesale business to a sudden halt. But while the nation’s food chain tumbled into the early quarantine chaos of ravaged grocery meat shelves, Primal transformed itself into one of the pandemic’s business success stories. Thomason closed her doors to shoppers, ramped-up a fledgling online store that now accounts for 95% of sales, and sent her delivery trucks direct to consumers' homes rather than the restaurants that once sustained her.
“We’re busier than we’ve ever been,” says Thomason, whose quality and ethical standards in sourcing whole local hogs and beef each week compensate for higher prices that are sometimes double their factory-farmed counterparts. Executive chef Damon Menapace’s tasty new line of lunch meats (smoked bologna, spicy fennel salami) should elevate your hoagie game. And now the retail shops have reopened for limited in-store access, with a third location to pick up online orders expected to open sometime this fall in Fishtown, not far from where Thomason’s Philly story began. “I’ve wanted to get back to Fishtown,” she says. The holidays are coming.
Primal Supply, Brewerytown (1521 N. 31st St.); South Philadelphia (1538 E. Passyunk Ave.); Fishtown (1317 Frankford Ave.); primalsupplymeats.com