As a former engineer, Andrew Arguin isn’t intimidated by a tough problem.
During the pandemic, when many small establishments struggled, his small business maintained a strong customer base, Arguin says. Customers turned to The Wine’ing Butcher when regional grocery stores ran out of meat. And he says when people didn’t want to shop “elbow-to-elbow with 1,000 other people at Costco,” they visited Arguin’s business, which is a butcher shop, grocery store, and fast-casual restaurant all in one.
“We fared pretty well. But coming out of the pandemic is when things shifted dramatically,” he says.
Suddenly, Arguin was confronted with a problem he couldn’t solve.
He faced staffing problems and significant increases in his ingredient prices. The lettuce shortage earlier this year caused his salad prices to jump $3, Arguin says.
“I had this overwhelming feeling of being stuck. There weren’t any options or moves I could do,” he says.
Arguin decided the best solution was to close The Wine’ing Butcher. But his staff and the community had other plans. Arguin says his staff immediately asked how they could help.
“They said ‘Hey, we want to do whatever it takes. We believe in this store,’” he says.
After posting on social media about the closure, the community had a similar response. Arguin says people begged him to keep The Wine’ing Butcher open.
“It gives me goosebumps. It’s extremely humbling. I get a frog in my throat just thinking about it,” he says.
After the community outpouring, Arguin says he was able to bring on more staff. And, he says for the week after the announcement, the store sold out of its inventory within hours. Arguin was constantly making calls to suppliers, and he and his staff worked at least 80 hours that week.
The rush of support led Arguin to keep business open, but he says his work is far from over.
Arguin says a key part of ensuring The Wine’ing Butcher stays open is creating convenience, which will allow him to reach and maintain a larger customer base. He says he’s constantly scrolling through social media comments for feedback, and one frequent suggestion is making his business digital, offering online ordering and subscriptions, along with delivery.
Developing these services is difficult because the existing technology is designed for large corporations, Arguin says, not small businesses like his.
“[Small business owners] tend to be on an island by ourselves. We don’t have the resources like a lot of the big boys do,” he says.
Arguin says he has talked with 12 different people from DoorDash to set up a grocery delivery service but has been unsuccessful. He also says services like DoorDash and Uber Eats are built for restaurants and might not suit his business.
“Is that DoorDash guy going to be able to handle 30 pounds of a groceries the same way he would for a burger and fries?” he poses.
Arguin says until The Wine’ing Butcher has access to online and delivery services, the support of his staff and community will continue to be the business’ “driving force.”
“There are solutions, I believe that there are. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.”
20915 Ashburn Rd., Ashburn
Feature image courtesy Wine’ing Butcher
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