Four years ago, Shaun Almassy wasn’t sure that he even wanted to become a butcher. After some convincing from a friend, he decided to try his hand at butchery. Almassy now finds himself up, at times as early as 6 a.m., prepping for the day ahead.
“I have always wanted to run a small business in Bellingham that offers something unique that the community needed,” Almassy said. So, he jumped at the opportunity to bring a local butcher shop to Bellingham.
In July of 2013 Almassy opened Carne on North State Street, his first store. He had no prior experience, but had a business partner who worked cutting meat in supermarkets. Almassy, a father of two, grew up in Bellingham, where he has lived his whole life. Before owning his own shop, Almassy worked numerous managerial positions in Bellingham’s small business community.
Most consumers have never set foot in a butcher shop. Like other things, the local butcher became a piece of Americana that slipped away with the advent of the all everything supermarket. Even now, butcher shops are often dismissed as a nostalgic or trendy fad. For Carne and Almassy, that isn’t the goal. Almassy wants to provide Bellingham with what he sees as a needed and missing resource in the community.
What they serve up is humble in scale, high in quality, and some of the best ethically and locally sourced products in the Pacific Northwest. Try them yourself when you cook up breakfast. At Carne, the breakfast sausage is ground and made in-house, complements locally- and pasture-raised Skagit Mesa eggs and house-cured bacon. Almassy sources everything in his store from the Northwest. He gets his grass-raised beef from a regional farming co-op to ensure a constant supply of beef. He features local fishermen, like well-known Jeremy Brown, and shellfish suppliers Penn Cove Shellfish, and other local suppliers to help ensure his shelves are stocked and his customers happy.
Last August, Carne moved to a larger place at the corner of Broadway and Elm Street. Almassy fell in love with the new location, looking to expand his operation to include a full food service. The larger spaces allow for an expanded inventory, meaning more freezers and a place for customers to come in and sit down for a sandwich once the lunch service is completely up and running.
Most customers are not fully aware of the services that a local modern butcher shop provides, Almassy admits. “Forty years ago, people had a sense that things aren’t around all the time. Now everything at the supermarket is stocked (all the time).” A large part of the job is letting customers know the role of a butcher. “We are kind of the front line of education on a lot of the seasonality of fish and meat.” Most frequently, that involves providing a less expensive, if not equally good, cut of meat as that found in the supermarket Almassy says. “It takes a lot of trust. I often will give personal recommendations and techniques to best prepare the cut.”
Much of Carne’s products are seasonal, and include specialty products to showcase Washington’s natural abundance. And that includes when he can salmon from Drifters Fish. Carne supplies over half a dozen restaurants in Bellingham with sustainable and locally sourced meats.
1205 Washington St., Bellingham
360.647.8686 | carnebellingham.com