Meat House in Amherst still operating, despite closures elsewhere

AMHERST – The local branch of the Meat House butcher shop remains open and busy even as questions swirl around the fate of the Portsmouth-based chain, which abruptly shut four of its stores Feb. 10.

“This closure has nothing to do with our operation,” said Allan Bald of Alton, who owns the Amherst store as an independent franchise from Meat House. “We weren’t notified in advance … it took us by surprise.”

The Amherst store will not only stay open, Bald said, but will honor gift cards issued by the closed branches.

“We’re gearing up in anticipation, ready to service customers from the other stores,” he said.

Bald’s is a franchise store, meaning he bought the rights to use the Meat House name and some materials, and to follow certain quality and service guidelines, in return for paying a portion of sales to the company.

The four closed Meat House stores, including one in Bedford and the original butcher shop in Portsmouth, are owned directly by the corporation, which was found in 2003 by two friends, Jason Parent and Justin Rosberg.

Those stores had notices in their doors saying they are closed for renovations, according to press reports, but WMUR-TV has reported that the firm may be facing financial problems.

Bald said he didn’t know anything about the closures: “I’m not privy to the internal corporate finances.”

He said the supplies, including local eggs and other food, are all ordered and bought by his store and won’t be affected by the closures.

The Amherst store is on Route 101A in the Meadow Brook Crossing Shopping Center, anchored by a Staples and Home Depot store. Bald, who owns operates two Tire Warehouse franchises in New Hampshire, opened it in September 2012.

It has about 20 employees, he said, and has done good business. “We exceeded our first-year forecasts.”

The Meat House chain was founded in 2003 and has expanded rapidly. It now has stores in 10 states from California to Florida, with at least two scheduled to open in the Mid-Atlantic.

Although it is anchored by its butcher shop, featuring various cuts of premium meats as well as exotic meats such as alligator tail, wild boar, ostrich and buffalo, the stores are also aimed more broadly at the “foodie” clientele, and feature cheeses, breads, pastries, beers and wine, as well as cooking classes and events.

Reports by WMUR-TV said that the state Labor Department was meeting the company regarding complaints about bounced paychecks, and also reported that the founders were being sued in U.S. District court by some early investors.

The company also touts its involvement in charity work. However, WMUR reported that $40,000 in donations collected by the Meat House at a charity event last summer have not been turned over to Chaplain’s Emergency Relief Fund, a group that supports veterans, as of this month.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).