By Tommy Feisel

Cowtown Downtown

Downtown has a butcher shop.
This isn’t breaking news. It’s literally been there 60 years.
You had no idea? Sounds about right.
Meat Packers Outlet isn’t on a main drag, but it’s right around the corner from the burgeoning Fourth and Main strip. And while co-owners and brothers, Dan and Pat Bangert admit they “don’t talk about themselves,” we decided that it was high time we did.
Meat Packers Outlet has been a Bangert family operation since 1957, so it makes sense that their regular customers span the generations—some even still remember shopping when Dan and Pat’s grandpa, who founded the place, was behind the counter.
Saturdays are the busiest days of the week at the outlet, which is closed on Sundays. If you’re thinking about stopping in to scope things out, you might want to avoid Saturday mornings in the summer—when the place is (ahem) packed with people stocking up for weekend cookouts.

By Tommy Feisel

Of course, those people have the right idea. Meat Packers’ lineup of brats, country ribs, and about every cut of beef imaginable basically screams “get out there and grill me.” And while it might seem like this place is meant for those with a big family and a deep freezer, “If you just want one pork chop for dinner, that’s fine,” Pat said. “We’ll take care of you.”
In addition to poultry, beef, and pork of every variety, they also stock a full lineup of deli meats and cheeses, and a solid offering of breads, seasonings, and sauces (including gallon-sized Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce) to round things out.
There’s rarely a moment when it’s quiet in the shop.
Metal trays clank together. One of the wheeled carts passes through the same doorway to the same walk-in fridges as they have been for decades. “I want that one right there, in the middle,” says a woman picking out her sirloin.
Some things have changed since 1957. Chicken wings, for example, never used to be something butchers could sell. Now, they’re one of the most popular chicken options. Over the years, the family has also added in specialty items, like ox tails and beef tongues, as different immigrant groups have moved into Columbus and brought their tastes with them.
Other things haven’t changed. The deliveries still come through the same door, and the sides of beef (they currently go through seven full cows a week) are still hung from the same iron tracks that connect the walk-in fridge and the counters where the meat is broken down into sirloin, ribeye, short ribs, ground beef, and more. (The outlet started out in a location down the street, and moved to their current location after about four years.)
And like their dad—and his dad before him—Dan and Pat continue to bring in mostly grass-fed beef from farms in the Ashland area. Not because grassfed is a buzz word, but because that’s how they do it. Whatever’s not sold one day is frozen and sold individually or in value-priced “freezer packages.”
They’ve also never put things on sale, instead electing to just keep prices as low as possible across the board, plain and simple. Popular items and their prices are hand-written on white paper in the main window.
Their longest-running employee started with Meat Packers when he was in high school and is getting ready to retire now, about 40 years later. It’s a place to have a career.
And they hope it will continue to be.

Over the decades, they’ve watched the ebb and flow of people living in and spending time downtown. Although many of their customers have been regulars for a while and drive in from all over, they’re noticing the surge in activity downtown. (Decades ago, when downtown was much more bustling, they were one of several fresh meat purveyors within walking distance.)
“We see a lot of new faces. Just even down the street here, with all these new restaurants,” Dan said. “It’s doing a complete circle again.”
Still, they know the face of retail is changing.
“It is kind of scary, the way Amazon’s going,” Dan added.
They still get most of their new customers via word of mouth (although they do have a Facebook page). And although you can’t order online and pick up at the curb, if you call in your order before 3 p.m., they’ll have it ready to go when you get there—custom cuts included.
It’s just something they’ve always done. •