ESTEVAN - The community asked for it, and the Recolaso family catered.
A long-awaited, real-deal butcher shop opened in downtown Estevan July 24.
Estevan Gerry's Freezer Meats currently serves all kinds of fresh cuts of premium quality beef, pork and poultry, as well as cooked and frozen meats, fresh sandwiches and some Western and Asian groceries. Estevan's butcher shop follows in the steps of Regina's Gerry's Freezer Meats store that's been serving customers for over a decade.
Further down the road, the owners want to create a greater variety of meat products, bring in more butchering services and start making sausages on site. But for now, the Recolaso family, consisting of siblings Edwin Recolaso, Edith Recolaso, Eden Pacunayen and Lyn Silen, are getting to know the community's needs and demands, as they want to ensure that they serve what people want.
A long, twisted, but always food-centred career path led Edwin Recolaso – the main man behind Gerry's Freezer Meats business, as his sister Edith characterized him – to opening his butcher shop in Estevan in 2022.
Open and friendly, this hardworking man first started their first family business back in his home country of the Philippines many years ago.
"Way back in the Philippines, we were still young, me and my sisters. My dad, he usually went abroad to work. And then he got tired of going out of the country, so he asked the family, 'What do you want to do for business? We have a garage,'" Edwin Recolaso recalled how things started for him in the 1980s. "So, I walked around and I tried to make a feasibility study on it. And then I decided to turn it into a burger house, which turned out good because it was the first burger house on our street."
Back then Recolaso had to learn all jobs that being a business owner holds from the cooking side of it to technicalities to economics.
"That was my first experience, and it went well for about seven years," Recolaso said.
For the next 17 years of his life, Recolaso dedicated to working on cruise ships as one of the chefs often catering meals to up to 5,000 passengers. This was his way to provide for the family and his kids. He said that even though it was sad to be away from them, this was a good decision as this way he could support them.
He quit cruise ships in 2006 and applied to come to Canada. In Estevan, Recolaso started in the kitchen at the local Boston Pizza.
"I love Marco Ricci and Cindy Ricci very much. They own Estevan's Boston Pizza," Recolaso said.
After two years, he was hired and spent close to 13 years in the meats department at Sobeys. He started at the lowest level in the kitchen, doing the cleaning and also watching and learning from others in the store.
"There is one person, his name is Bob Dengler. All the knowledge I have I owe to this guy," said Recolaso with great respect. "I worked with him in Sobeys for two or three years."
After learning everything about butchering meat, and many years of experience, one day Recolaso got together with the family and they decided that it probably was the time to get to the next level.
"We sat down one time, and my sisters were joking that maybe we can set up a butcher shop because you know how to handle it," recalled Recolaso. "So I sat down for a week and thought it over. I knew it was going to be hard because first, it isn't an easy specialty. And then it's just me."
Recolaso realized that while his sisters will do their best to help him with customers and the admin side of the business, there were a lot of things they couldn't do. Despite all the challenges, he decided to push for it and create something new and something Estevan wanted to see coming.
He started working towards opening the new store on Feb. 24 this year. On March 1, he got the place, and then he started fixing it up and redoing it to transform it into a butcher shop. He also had to ensure he complies with the local regulations and MuniCode.
Recolaso has been a customer of Gerry's Freezer Meats in Regina for a while, so when he decided to open his butcher store, he chose to work with them so he wouldn't need to reinvent the wheel. And the union with Rodante and Cielo Macapia worked well.
The shop just opened, but many customers have already been down checking out the place and the offerings.
"I stopped in the store today and was very impressed," wrote Wanda Harron in her review of Estevan Gerry's Freezer Meats on their Facebook page. "What struck me first was how clean and spotless it was. Was going to pick up kabobs for supper but they didn't have any yet.
“I took a look at some of the other products available – the steaks and hamburgers looked really good. And I think a rotisserie chicken will be on our menu later this week. Was told fresh sandwiches like pastrami will also be available. Hope they get the community's support as it's nice to see an empty spot filled on Fourth Street."
On their way out of the store with some meat in their hands, other customers noted that prices also were competitive.
Recolaso said that his goal is to always have the freshest cuts for their customers. So, if someone knows they need four striploin steaks Sunday afternoon, they can call the store in advance and Recolaso will have the meat cut just before the pickup.
Besides, Recolaso noted that he knows firsthand that different cultures have various meat favourites, which are sometimes hard to find in a smaller city. So, Estevan Gerry's Freezer Meats will do their best to get local people what they want and need for any kind of meal or occasion.
Recolaso is currently doing the butchering work on his own, but he said there will be another person joining him to help with meat, so in the future, they hope to bring in more variety for both fresh and cooked meat options. He said that eventually, he'd love to also be able to help local farmers seeking butchering services for their personal needs, but that is a whole different procedure, paperwork and certification, which he might be able to accomplish later on.
He added that he likes Estevan and wants to serve the community to the best of his abilities.
"I like it here in Estevan more than anywhere else," Recolaso said. "And this business is not just about us making money. It's about serving the community, the city, the people around us from different nations. We are going to try to cater what you need, and you have to tell us things that we need to improve too."
Estevan Gerry's Freezer Meats is open Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at 1209 Fourth Street in downtown Estevan.