It was a Memorial Day to remember for Butcher on the Block owner Tom Yucuis.
The deli and butcher shop at 4660 W. Algonquin Road in Lake in the Hills made 63% more sales compared to last year, with a steady line of customers stretching six stores long over the holiday weekend.
Not to mention the constant stream of cars pulling in and out for curbside pickup.
“People drive out back and it’s almost a McDonald’s drive-thru,” Yucuis said. “It’s insane to watch the cars line up and come through. We have a guy that just sits out there, and that’s his job, doing curbside pickup all day.”
As other small businesses or restaurants had to shut down temporarily or, worse, close for good, Butcher on the Block has stayed open since the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Yucuis and his wife, Jill, opened Butcher on the Block 20 years ago. They now employ more than 40 employees, with six added in the last couple of months to help with packing and putting together orders for their new curbside pickup service.
Three walk-in coolers and a walk-in freezer inside the building was not sufficient enough to handle the volume of curbside orders, so Yucuis had to rent two refrigerated trucks to hold the orders.
Customers are instructed to pull around to the back of the building, call the store, press ‘0,’ let them know that they are there, and wait for an employee to grab the order from a truck and place it inside their car.
“Really what it’s done for our business has escalated at least three times what it was, maybe even four times, on every single day,” Yucuis said. “We are so busy, we are exhausted. Some of us are only getting one day off a week, if any days off at all. We want to thank everyone for allowing us to stay open and keeping our business going, so we can keep employing more people.”
Yucuis was prepared and acted quickly when COVID-19 started to shutter local businesses. His biggest move was purchasing large quantities of meat up front, including 23,000 pounds of chicken breast.
They are only now starting to see a slight decline in their supply, but Yucuis isn’t too worried.
As the cost of meat rises, Butcher on the Block has been able to keep its meat prices down.
“When you come into Butcher on the Block, the one thing you’re going to see is a meat case full of meat,” Yucuis said. “You will not see empty holes like there are in chain stores. Right now, we can sell boneless chicken breasts cheaper than anybody.”
Yucuis also rented a refrigerated van for future deliveries.
“We are going to hit a lot of communities and deliver right to their homes,” Yucuis said. “You have to think about the elderly people, the people at Del Webb. We need to bring food to them.”
Butcher on the Block also took safety precautions early on. The store requires everyone to wear both masks and gloves while inside the building, going as far to provide gloves for every customer.
“We put safeguards in place before the CDC said that things had to be done,” Yucuis said. “We had the shields put up by registers before anybody thought about doing that. I contracted a lot of gloves out front, prior to COVID-19. Right now, If I had to buy gloves, it would cost me $30 a case or more.”
Social distancing is required and there is a limit to the number of customers inside the store, Yucuis said.
“We’re following what CDC says and we’re making sure everyone is safe here,” Yucuis said. “When you look at the amount of business we’re doing and the amount of people going in and out, all of our employees are wearing masks and gloves. We’re all staying six fee apart. We’re safe. We’re very very safe.”
Butcher on the Block changed its hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. They are open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. A line of people out front starts to form everyday before 11 a.m.
July 28 is Butcher on the Block’s 20th anniversary.
Yucuis is excited for what’s ahead.
“I don’t know what to expect, but I hope with all of the people on unemployment right now, that we can hire more and keep this economy moving,” Yucuis said. “People have to change and adapt to what COVID-19 is. You have to think out of the box, be proactive. That’s basically what I do all the time.”
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