Story by Pamela A. Keene
Two generations of experience in the meat and poultry business has its benefits. And David Eskew, owner of Block n Blade Butcher Shoppe in Flowery Branch’s Clearwater Crossing Shopping Center, is more than willing to put his steaks against any meat counter in the area.
“My dad – Dr. John Eskew, who ran the research center for Gold Kist – mentored me,” David says. “And late my mom, a microbiologist, worked with him at Gold Kist for five years. With my degree in agricultural business and poultry science from Auburn, it was natural for me to go into this business.”
After graduation, David worked for some big-name companies, including Tyson and Gold Kist. He met his wife Donna during his time in North Carolina with Gold Kist; she worked at the plant in quality control and is a graduate of North Carolina State University with a degree in food science. He also earned his Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification to fine-tune his understanding of process improvement and efficiency.
The couple moved back to Hall County to be near family. She joined Gold Kist and he began a consulting firm, Continuous Process Improvement Consulting Group, in 2007.
In 2011, David purchased Block n Blade near the intersection of Spout Springs Road and Thompson Mill. Within a few months, he also purchased a butcher shop in downtown Flowery Branch, but he decided to consolidate the operations.
Over the years, he’s expanded the original space to 4,500 square feet. “As adjacent space became available, we made our footprint bigger,” he says. “We changed the look of the shop, took away almost all of the self-service cases and replaced the flooring.”
He’s put in a kitchen up front where Chef Alex Chapman, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu school, crafts the store’s home-made sausage, Bock n Blade’s famous chicken salad and numerous items in the grab-n-go case for people who want to take a ready-made meal home for supper — from Brunswick stew and pulled pork to twice-baked potatoes and a variety of sides.
“We also do a lot of catering from here,” he says. “And Alex likes to come up with new recipes.”
Butcher/manager Joey Bennett has been with David since the beginning. “We do a lot of custom orders and custom cuts, plus we debone chickens and stuff chops and other meats,” David says. The store even lists fresh oysters on its sales chalkboard. “We’re happy to order oysters, crab legs and other items for our customers and if there are any left over, we sell them to walk-ins.”
Block n Blade offers local products, from pickles made in Athens to “Q-Sauce” made in Hamilton Mill. The store’s grass-fed beef is sourced from Carrollton and poultry from Gainesville. Block n Blade sells fresh homemade dog food in its self-serve case, made from scraps remaining from butchering.
“We support about 10 other businesses from around here, including the folks who make honey, a locally created seasoning called Saltz.”
Block n Blade has its own line of sauces and seasonings, too. And staff is always willing to share tips about how to best cook a particular cut of meat.
“Not many chain groceries have a true on-site butcher,” David says.
The Perfect Cut of Meat
The Block n Blade’s No. 1 seller is ribeye. David Eskew, owner of Block n Blade, offers tips for finding the best cuts. Look for:
Good marbling, with small veins of fat running through the meat which gives it a good flavor
Consistent bright-red color throughout, the brighter the fresher
Ask for custom-ground beef. Block n Blade only sells 80/20 and 93/7 percent lean to fat. All-organic, grass-fed beef is ground to 85/15 percent lean to fat
Meat is rated by grade by the US Department of
Prime/High Choice, less than 1 percent of all meat
Choice, about 25 percent of meat sold
Select and canner make up the other 74 percent