Bill Turnbull: Town butcher cresting locavore wave

Chilliwack's Bill Turnbull, 26, as featured in The Chilliwack Progress Forty Under 40.

Bill Turnbull.

Bill Turnbull.

Bill Turnbull, 26, is the first one to arrive at his downtown shop, the Town Butcher, and last to leave.

He and his wife, Liv, a talented self-taught cook with a passion for interior design, launched The Town Butcher four years ago.

Turnbull’s dream was to offer local, natural and hormone-free meat that he would custom cut for his clientele.

He was only 22 and had a lot to prove to be taken seriously by the money-lenders.

“In the first year, a month after we started the shop, the economy crashed,” he remembers.

They didn’t buckle. Turnbull took on another job to keep them afloat, and worked it for 185 days straight.

“Once the economy was in trouble, the banks didn’t want to lend us money. It was hard to stay afloat.”

But they did more than just hang in there. They eventually started thriving.

They now have a second full-time meat cutter on board, who can give Turnbull a break now and then, and maybe let him get back to skiing or judo.

The award-winning business is making it now in part by staying true to the original vision, ensuring their high-quality beef, pork, chicken, lamb and turkey are raised locally or within a few hours drive.

Turnbull researched the producers, the feed, and how the animals are raised. He knew Chilliwack was ready to get on board the locavore trend.

Another element is personalized service.

Liv created to die-for ready-made deli items from the Sunshine Salad, to cheesy twice-baked potatoes and stuffed mushroom caps. There is also homemade stocks and sausages in the freezer.

The shop is chic and chock full of appealing fare, the pricing was structured to keep “a nice, honest margin,” he said. But he knew the equipment would have to be paid off before they started making any money.

“Sometimes you really have to take a hit the first few years to get your business right, and to build a client base from zero,” Turnbull says. The top-shelf quality had to be there, like triple AAA steaks even if there were some asking for lower cost options.

The growth of the locavore niche coincided with a segment of Chilliwack starting to seek out the type of high-quality, local product lines they offer.

“I noticed people were seeking out homemade products. Either they wanted it made for them or they wanted to make it themselves.

The difference was a shift to good, healthy, homemade foods.

Turnbull sees himself eventually buying a property and building a custom smokehouse to introduce his own line of deli meats like pepperoni, beef jerky and more.

“We want to do one store and do it well with as much homemade product as possible.”