Brownsville Butcher & Pantry: A Dream Becomes a Reality
Aug 31, 2020 08:55PM
By Virginia Dean
The space has been renovated, a community cornerstone has been restored, the business is autonomous but the relationship with residents and customers solidified. It’s the new establishment of the Brownsville Butcher & Pantry - Brownsville, and it has been welcomed with open arms, according to owners Peter Varkonyi and Lauren Stevens.
“Seeing a dream become a reality is incredibly rewarding,” says Varkonyi. “There are not enough words to express our gratitude to the community and to our staff. In not so simple terms, we owe so much to so many.”
The Dream Begins
Varkonyi and Stevens’ dream materialized in May 2018 when they were chosen by the Friends of the Brownsville General Store committee whose members came together under a common goal for social investment and community rehabilitation after purchasing the building from foreclosure in April 2018.
After being selected, Varkonyi and Stevens, neither of whom had hit 30 years old yet, began construction in June 2018 and opened their doors on November 22 of the same year.
But the real kickoff for their new venture came about not only with the blending together of Varkonyi and Stevens’ crafting of authentic dishes but also the stock of a lot of beer—anywhere from 120 to 140 distinct brews, from producers all over the world. Despite the wide variety, the collection is carefully curated.
Good Relationships Mean Good Selection
“We work hard to provide relevant, local, quality beer to our community by building solid working relationships with our local breweries and distributors,” says Varkonyi.
Currently, B&P is getting deliveries every week from five to six different companies; each distributor has a collection of brands near and far that they source new, interesting, and tasty cans from.
“We love to see innovation and experimentation from brewers, as well as dedication on their part to supporting their communities and sourcing local ingredients. And it’s our job as a store to encourage that,” says Varkonyi. “We prioritize getting those cans onto our shelves, so we’ve usually got some kind of research series or local grain collaboration available. It’s a fun challenge to stay on top of the incredible amount of production the makers in our state put out!”
Most importantly, B&P has always been about community. Harpoon is based out of Windsor, and they see a lot of their brewers on a regular basis.
“We’re always going to support our friendly neighborhood brewery,” says Varkonyi.
From their backyard to Fiddlehead and Zero Gravity up north, Schilling across the river, and all the others across the region; they’ve made a lot of friends and are dedicated to supporting these local businesses.
Evolving Wine and Cider Selection
Wine and cider are an “evolving thought,” Varkonyi notes. “We began testing the market for anything natural and local but that meant we were being too impartial as far as regionality and great wines,” he says. “So, we rethought it and agreed that our purchases should be very broad stroked and to have a keen eye to the worldliness of it.”
What has dictated their investment is who makes the best—from small local importers to old world exporters, he explained. The B&P carries over 200 rotating labels at one time in house.
“Our number one goal is to bring in wine that is not available elsewhere,” Varkonyi says. “We want our customers to have a unique experience here as they try something different.”
Cider, he added, is now being treated more like a crafted wine these days. He and Stevens work with such makers as Fable Farm Fermentory in Barnard and New Hall Wines and Puckerbrush Ciders in Reading whose owner, Mark Hall, embraces the nuances of wild fermentation.
Stevens has a background working on a small vegetable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in the state of Washington, and Varkonyi has a degree in culinary arts from The New England Culinary Institute and has since devoted his career to working closely with local farmers for the highest quality products. He has expanded his skills in butchering and whole-animal utilization.
Stevens, a native of Granville, New York, oversees the store’s hiring, training, and licensing as well as customer service. Varkonyi, who hails from northern Virginia, serves as the chef.
The twosome utilizes local farmers, honey and maple syrup producers, cheese makers, and beverage companies. Their beer stock rotates but they host beer from almost every Vermont beer producer that distributes as well as some from New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.
871 VT 44