Jeff and Cathy Mayer started out in the meat business in 1989 in a converted two-car garage at Stephenson’s Meat Cutting, which was owned by Grandpa Art. One summer, he showed Jeff the ropes of the business and ever since then, Jeff knew that he was destined to continue working in the meat trade for the duration of his career.
Now, with more than 30 years of business operations under their belt and more than a dozen full-time employees, Mayer’s Custom Meats continues to be family owned and operated. Jeff Mayer still owns the business, while his daughter Alysa Mayer manages the shop. Tom Mayer (Alysa’s uncle) is meat manager; Jacob Mayer (Alysa’s brother) is a handyman around the shop; Jenna Mayer (Alysa’s sister) works doing marketing and HR paperwork; Kelsi Mayer (Alysa’s sister) runs the shop’s social media; and Alex Mayer (Alysa’s cousin) does cleanup and custom orders.
Alysa said one advantage of being a family owned and operated business is that you know the people you’re working with, which creates a “more honest workplace.”
“You develop thicker skin working for family, that’s for sure,” Alysa said. “There is a sense of unconditional love that shines through at the end of the workday. You may have had everything go wrong that could have and you know your family is waiting with open arms to share in your frustrations. Although I’m sure we want to rip each other’s heads off sometimes, there’s nothing like working with people you trust full heartedly and have high expectations for their work ethic. But if anything goes bad, we all know we can trust each other.”
With all of the advantages of being a family owned business there are also, of course, some challenges. One thing Alysa that everyone in the family agrees on is that work always ends up coming home with them.
“You find yourself at the dinner table discussing different ideas that could make the shop better,” she said. “Constantly thinking about how we can best serve our favorite people of Clark County is always on our minds whether it’s business hours or not. Another (challenge) is the difference of opinions. We are a family that isn’t afraid to say what is on our minds and that can help and hurt us in many different ways. So, during this time of the unknown, it has been tricky to navigate around the ways of best practice.”
Mayer’s Custom Meats specializes in retail meat sales, custom meat cutting and sausage making. Meat lovers can find almost any meat product they’re looking for, including 28 different smoked bratwurst varieties and various cuts of beef, pork, chicken and wild game.
Alysa said that their primary success comes from the sense of family that is created when customers visit.
“We are so thankful we get to come to work every day and really enjoy every interaction we have with each of our customers,” she said. “Some of these people have known us since my siblings and I were in diapers, others may have only been coming in for a few weeks. We really like to take the time to get to know our community and the people that make up this great area that we’ve grown up in. We want you to feel like family when you walk through our doors.”
The sense of feeling like their customers are family is one of the things that Alysa said has made dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic difficult.
“We love to create a very welcoming and family like atmosphere, so it has been hard to adapt to only letting a certain amount of people into our front lobby at a time,” she said. “Also, we don’t see our more senior regulars due to the precautions they are taking to stay safe and healthy.”
As far as business goes, however, Alysa said COVID has actually helped their business, with the only negative being that their employees are tired all the time and can’t wait for it all to be over.
“We have over 1,500 new customers,” Alysa said. “We know the least of our problems should be a surplus of customers and we are appreciative and thankful for new and returning business. Our hearts go out to all of the businesses struggling right now. Some have even had to close and shut down. That’s why it is so important to support your local small businesses during this time. COVID has made our employees push themselves every day and our new employees learn on the fly. It has been a hectic but exciting pandemic at Mayer’s for sure. We just hope everyone is staying healthy and we hope this will all be over soon.”
Mayer’s Custom Meats also places high priority on local business partnerships. They team up with other small businesses in the area by selling local products in the store. They also partner with Oregon-based farms like Painted Hills and Carlton Farms to ensure that they provide the best quality meats for their customers.
“Our customers are supporting a local, family run business and we like to make sure they know we are appreciative of that,” she said. “We want to make your visit to our shop an experience, not just a transaction. We like sending people out with a smile and pepperoni stick in hand.”
Mayer’s Custom Meats is located at 12903 NE 72nd Ave., in Vancouver.