One night back in February, Oro Valley resident Greg Hughley was complaining to his wife Bonnie about the long hours and hassles of being a meat counter manager at Basha's.
Bonnie said she told her husband if he was going to work that hard and that many hours, "Why don't we just do it ourselves" and open our own butcher shop? Seven months later the Hughleys, along with Bonnie's sister Terri Kunz and Terri's husband Bob, have opened Choice Cuts at 10355 N. La Canada Drive in the Canada Crossroads shopping plaza.
All four admit they had their trepidations about making the jump from being retirees and employees to entrepreneurs and shop owners. But most of those fears were laid to rest on opening day Aug. 22.
"We've had people coming in saying 'We couldn't wait for you guys to open,'" Terri Kunz said.
Kunz said the store has been constantly busy since it opened and the customer response has been almost overwhelming.
Greg, who's been a butcher for 20 years, mostly in Minnesota, said he knew there was a demand for high quality meat, which is why he said he was confident the butcher shop would be successful.
"The trend has started to change back from (grocery store meat counters) to neighborhood butchers," Hughley said. "People want high quality meat and they want service."
The two families have put a premium on quality and service. They have been licensed to sell Certified Angus Beef, which is a program that ensures the beef sold in the shop is Angus and has consistent quality and flavor.
Choice Cuts is only the second retail outlet in Tucson licensed to sell Certified Angus Beef, the other being Albertson's Food and Drug.
As for service, while Greg cuts meat, Bonnie, Terri and Bob will work the front counter, aided on occasion by the Hughley's sons, Mason and Clay.
Terri said the goal is that customers are served immediately and that they get what they want. Which includes cutting meat any way the customer asks and ordering any cut or type of meat for them if the shop doesn't have it.
"We want to separate ourselves from everybody," Terri said. "We don't have to be first, just the best."
While long-suffering from an absence of specialty meat shops, the Northwest's void is quickly being filled this summer. Mike's Meat Shop opened two months ago in Marana and an eastside butcher is opening a second shop in Casas Adobes later this fall.
But that sudden surge of competition doesn't faze Choice Cut's owners. Bob Kunz said most people are more likely to shop in their neighborhoods and added that he thinks the owners have picked a great neighborhood in which to locate. Canada Crossroads is in the heart of Oro Valley where the average new home price passed $200,000 last year.
Like many Oro Valleyans, the Hughleys and Kunz are transplants, the Kunz moving to Oro Valley from Minnesota in 1999 and the Hughleys last year from the same state.
The four have poured their lives into the shop, from choosing to fund the endeavor themselves, to doing all the finishing work on the interior and decorating it.
"We've been here working on it everyday for the last two months," Bonnie said about the work the families were putting in getting the shop ready to open. "There's a lot of blood, sweat and tears that has gone into this and we're just really excited that we're (open)."
Besides having a large selection of various cuts of beef, pork, chicken and lamb, the shop also sells a selection of fresh seafood and many prepared items such as shish-kabob, several varieties of sausage and beef jerky (made from a secret recipe devised by Bob Kunz and nephew Mason Virden).
Steak dinners and backyard grilling aren't the only reasons to stop at Choice Cuts. The store is a full deli offering Boar's Head meat and cheeses and a selection of sandwiches made from the same.
Representatives from the Certified Angus Beef Program will be at the store Aug. 31 from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. grilling meat and offering preparation and cooking tips. Reps from Boar's Head will also be there offering samples and providing information about Boar's Head products.
The store is open Monday through Friday10 a.m. to 7 p.m and Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 297-6792 for more information.
WHAT IS CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF?
The Certified Angus Beef Program is a nonprofit division of the American Angus Association and guarantees beef certified by the program is from cattle that were at least 50 percent Angus breed and that the beef meets specific criteria for quality and flavor.
All Certified Angus Beef is graded as choice or higher by United States Department of Agriculture inspectors. However, only about one out of every six Angus carcasses eligible for the CAB program is actually certified.
The program is committed to encouraging cattle producers in the program to produce beef that has a superior flavor, tenderness and juiciness.
The program licenses meat packers, fabricators, processors, distributors, retailers and restaurants. The only other retailer in Tucson licensed to sell Certified Angus Beef is Albertson's Food and Drug stores.