Tastemakers 2017: Tony Tanner of The Butcher & Grocer

Erin Edwards
Tony Tanner with his team of butchers at The Butcher & Grocer

Why He's a Tastemaker

Tony Tanner will be the first to tell you he's not a butcher. He leaves that up to The Butcher & Grocer's team of butchers—Dustin Butler, Nathan Killen and Madeleine Kren. But Tanner grew up around great food, is passionate about “clean meat” (antibiotic- and hormone-free) and is a problem solver—all attributes that have served him well during the Grandview shop's first year. Tanner handles the business side at the shop, which sells Ohio-raised beef, pork, lamb and poultry, plus grocery items like Randy's Pickles from Cleveland and Ohio cheeses. The Pataskala native's mission is simple: support local businesses and help consumers know where their meat is coming from. That mission begins with building relationships.

Farmers' Biggest Fan

Tanner has a knack for storytelling, and sharing stories about the family farms whose products are sold at B&G is a big part of what he does well. He talks about visiting one of the shop's partners, Six Buckets Farm in New Philadelphia, Ohio. The house sits above the farm and the scenery is “majestic,” Tanner says. He was taking in the view one time when farm owner Lyndsey Teter asked him, “You see that fence down there? It wouldn't be there if it wasn't for you guys.” “Man,” Tanner says. “Otherwise, she's trying to sell pigs to anybody that will buy them. … We're buying two a week from them, which is great. That's when you realize that what you're doing is actually helping a farmer.”

The Wholesale Game

At one point, Tanner realized the shop had an excess ground beef problem. “You end up with a lot of trim off these animals and you have to turn it into grind,” he says. “I was like, ‘I'm just going to start talking to people who have restaurants.'” He already knew Rockmill Tavern owner Matthew Barbee, so B&G started providing ground beef for Rockmill's oft-Instagrammed Tavern Burger. Tanner's shop now provides fresh meats for The Table, La Tavola, Flavor 91 Burger Bistro and even Little Dreamers Big Believers, a daycare in Grandview. One of his most recent accounts is Grow Restaurants, Chris Crader's management group consisting of Harvest, The Sycamore and Cosecha Cocina. (Fun fact: Tanner was Crader's camp counselor back in the day.) Crader says he wanted to keep the sourcing and butchering local, so he introduced Tanner to Scott Boehnlein, the owner of New Creation Farm. “Between the three of us we figured out a way to make it all happen,” Crader says.“We use New Creation via Butcher & Grocer at all of our restaurants.”

Happy Problems

By day, Tanner works for the state as executive director of the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board. He says the best part of his side gig is talking with customers in the butcher shop. “I'm in state government all day, in an office. … Nine times out of 10, I'm on phone calls or emails, and I'm solving people's problems. … It's kind of the same at the shop. Except people coming into the shop, their problem is, ‘I don't know what I want for dinner,'” he says, laughing. “That's a lot easier than ‘I can't figure out how to get my license to start working today.' So, you're still fixing a problem, but it's a happier problem at the shop.”

[Editor's Note: Since we published this story, Tanner left his position with the the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board to focus on The Butcher and Grocer.]

Tony Tanner

AGE 46


GO-TO DRINK Bourbon, hold the ice

GO-TO SNACK Mike & Ike candies

DREAM DINNER DATES “Teddy Roosevelt—I'd love to talk with him about the great outdoors and hunting ... definitely over an Ohio whitetail venison steak; Irma Rombauer—I use her book ALL the time (basically because she encourages lard use); and the Butcher & Grocer team—we never get time to just sit down and enjoy each others' company ... I vow to make that happen soon.”