The meat market in downtown Ludowici has reopened and is enjoying steady business, partly from patrons who frequented the previous business and partly from new customers, including deer hunters.
Majestic Meat Market, at 576 S. McDonald St., opened for business Sept. 7. Owners Benjamin and Yvette McCrea said they’re glad to be a part of community. Ben, a retired combat medic, originally is from Florida. Yvette, an active-duty personnel officer and medical troop commander, is from Washington, D.C.
Yvette said she’s been selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel, so she plans to remain in the Army for a few more years. They plan to retire in Long County.
“I was always interested in running a business,” Ben McCrea said. “We used to come here a lot. One time, we ordered a quarter of a cow, which they processed for us. When we found out they were closing, we looked into getting it.”
With their son Tobias helping out as manager and two employees with more than 60 years of meat-processing experience between them, the McCreas said they quietly reopened the market then held a grand opening two weeks later with the Long County Chamber of Commerce.
Referring to his professional butchers as “cutters,” Ben McCrea said Lee Stevenson, who has 27 years of meat-processing experience, and Alvin Moore, who has more than 35 years of meat-processing experience, worked for the shop’s previous owner. He said they rely on Stevenson and Moore to process beef, pork and poultry and, especially, venison.
Ben McCrea said they opened right about the time bow season started for deer hunting. Customers who park in front of the store are greeted by a sign bearing 18-inch block letters that read, “We process deer.”
“We’ve done a couple or three deer already,” Ben McCrea said. “I tried it for the first time last week. What I had was something like a venison hamburger. It was pretty good.”
He said before they accept a deer for processing, Stevenson or Moore will come out to the hunter’s truck to inspect the deer for disease. He said the state does not require them to have a separate license to process venison. However, they have to follow special precautions so there will be no risk for cross-contamination of domestic meats and venison. He stressed that venison is the only wild game they process. They cannot process wild hog or wild turkey.
“We have to wait until the end of the day when there are not any customers,” he explained. “Before we can process the deer, we have to clean all our equipment thoroughly. Then, after we process the deer (into cubed steaks, hamburger or sausage), we have to clean the equipment again.”
Manager Tobias McCrea said they get all their meats locally. Beef comes from Nahunta, poultry from Claxton and pork from Alma. The shop also has contracted with a German butcher who delivers bratwurst, schnitzel, schweinebraten (pork), roulade (beef round-tip) and German hamburger.
“About 90 percent of our customers are what I’d call returning customers,” McCrea said. “It feels great for them to tell us, ‘We’re glad y’all are open again.’ We also have a lot of new customers, especially from Fort Stewart.”
He said as their customer base expands, they plan to expand other services and may offer fresh, seasonal vegetables and perhaps fresh seafood. He pointed to a large rotisserie unit behind the cash register and said they soon will begin selling rotisserie chickens. On Friday, McCrea was waiting for an electrician to come in to install a 220-volt outlet.
Having been open only three weeks, McCrea said he thinks they’re off to a good start.