New Altoona Butcher Steaking a Claim
Rump’s Butcher Shoppe emphasizes quality cuts
Bob Adrian readily acknowledges he can’t do anything halfway. When he decided to open an old-fashioned butcher shop in Altoona, he wanted to create a unique place to sell high-quality local meat. Over time, his dream grew to encompass a drastically renovated space, a wide range of grocery products, and a mind-boggling array of meats, ranging from eight kinds of bacon to specialty sausages to buffalo and elk (yes, elk).
Call it a petit filet mignon dream that grew into the big ol’ T-bone that is Rump’s Butcher Shoppe, 1411 Lynn Ave.
“Our whole mentality is just do it right, and don’t cut corners.” – Bob Adrian, owner of Rump’s Butcher Shoppe in Altoona
“Everything in here is top quality,” Adrian says of the shop, which opened in late October. The majority of the meat at Rump’s is locally sourced and all-natural; you won’t find meat pumped with hormones, flavored with MSG, or artificially plumped with injected salt water. The beef comes from Elk Mound, the buffalo from Rice Lake, and the elk from New Auburn.
“Our whole mentality is just do it right, and don’t cut corners,” explains Adrian, whose love of sausage-making and career as a commodity trader eventually led him into the butcher business. “To me, it’s insulting the consumer to say, ‘They ain’t gonna know.’ ”
Considering the design of the shop, the knowledge of the staff, and the meat-loving nature of the clientele, customers do know what they’re getting – or they can easily find out (if you need preparation tips, just ask). Walk through the front door and you are greeted by agricultural antiques and walls clad in reclaimed wood from an old granary. Just beyond, behind display cases brimming with steaks and chops, the gleaming meat-cutting equipment stands out in the open, allowing shoppers to watch the butchers at work.
“I think it’s good for people to see what you’re doing,” says head butcher Dan Horlacher, who has more than 20 years of experience in the meat business. Other than grinding beef, which is done in the freezer for sanitary reasons, all the meat is prepared within sight of customers. “We bring quarters of beef out. You should see people’s eyes,” Horlacher says, making wide circles with his hands.
Adrian says the success of his store is linked to a societal shift toward wanting to know where our food comes from – a desire to make a deeper connection to the things we eat instead of just throwing them in our mouths. Today’s shoppers are more likely to read labels and seek foods that are more natural and less processed.
Adrian says he’s bowled over by community support for his venture: He figured it would take a year or two to build the customer base Rump’s has gained in just over seven months.
“Best hamburger I have ever made came from Rump’s ground beef,” raved one of 87 five-star reviewer on Facebook. “If you are looking for beef sticks they are by far the best around!” wrote another shopper, while a third declared, “Best cuts of meat in the Chippewa Valley, without a doubt.”
While the store was closed as usual on a recent Monday afternoon, Adrian and Horlacher were still busy working inside. Adrian enthusiastically described the shop’s specialty products, from deli meats to asparagus-stuffed chicken breasts, while Horlacher prepared a batch of all-beef hotdogs, meticulously running the meat through a gargantuan grinder.
A hot dog may seem like one of the most humble things you’d find in a butcher shop, but it’s vitally important to Adrian. He grew up eating hot dogs from the famed (but now sadly defunct) Gutknecht’s Market on Chippewa Falls’ West Hill, so he knew he wanted Rump’s to have what he terms “amazing” hot dog – and what the shop sells fits the bill, he says: “You cook that up and bite into it – the casing just snaps,” he says with a grin.
Besides local meat, Rump’s also carries a range of other local edibles, from Sue’s Deluxe Bake Shop buns to Lazy Monk beer.
Rump’s also has a growing wholesale business: It’s making burgers for the Brackett Bar and the soon-to-open Classic Garage, and this summer it will be supplying pulled pork and its specialty Railroader Brat (made with bacon, beer, and cheese) to Eau Claire Express fans at Carson Park. As wholesale and retail demand grows, it’s not unusual for the shop to make 1,500 hamburgers in a week.
And now that grilling season is in full swing, Adrian doesn’t expect demand to tail off anytime soon. “Every single day, there’s people coming in for the very first time,” he says.