After six months of acting as an informal adviser, chef Marc Vetri is now a minority owner of Primal Supply Meats, Heather Marold Thomason's fast-growing butchery.
Thomason, who supplies locally sourced, pasture-raised meat to many of the region's top chefs, said Vetri and his business partner Jeff Benjamin — who are customers — had been "cheerleaders," helping to guide her expansion from a plant in Delaware County to a butcher shop that opened last spring on East Passyunk Avenue across from the Singing Fountain.
Vetri, investing personally, and Thomason are working on a significant Primal Supply project — what she calls "a home base" that will include meat processing, a commissary kitchen, and an event space to permit chef pop-ups and classes.
They declined to pinpoint the location, acknowledging only that it will be in the city and will open in 2019.
Thomason, 38, a former graphic designer who only began studying butchery about seven years ago, started Primal Supply in 2016. She had left Kensington Quarters in Fishtown, where she was head butcher at what was its retail butcher shop; the counter has since closed and it's a restaurant and event space.
"We started using Heather right at the onset," Vetri said.
"I really try to make an effort to source things that are local and how she is working with farmers. I saw how motivated she is and I was super interested in how she was operating. I loved the vibe she had going on, and every time she was at the restaurant, I sat with her a little bit. Then there were rumors she was opening a butcher shop in South Philly and I actually mentioned to my chef Matt [Buehler] about a year ago: 'Hey, let Heather know that if there's anything she needs, let me know.' "
Thomason said Vetri's buy-in to her boot-strapped business would provide "some financial stability. I now feel more secure in growing business to the next level."
Primal Supply now has 15 employees and sales were about $2 million a year, she said.
"I'm there to help as much or little as she wants," Vetri said. "We'll hopefully move things in the right direction."
Vetri himself has had a taste of expansion and finance, having built with Benjamin a collection of restaurants — including Pizzeria Vetri, Amis, and Osteria — that they later sold to Urban Outfitters. Vetri and Benjamin's sole restaurant is now Vetri Cucina; a Las Vegas location is on tap for a November opening.