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WEST CHAZY, N.Y. — For the better part of the last decade, Shane Dutil, who grew up in his family’s convenience store with his brother and sister stocking shelves and cutting meats, has helped D&D Meats evolve from a mom-and-pop shop beloved by locals to the destination store it is today.
Dutil, 39, is the youngest son of Adrien and Sharon Dutil, who opened up their convenience store on a two-lane highway that splits through the bucolic hamlet of West Chazy back in 1981. Adrien, a meat cutter by trade, had long harbored a dream of opening up his own business when he bought the property, which was previously home to an establishment called Juberts Store.
After experiencing some malaise working in research and development for a pharmaceutical company, Shane returned to the family business. He soon put his research skills to work investigating how to make jerky, buying a five-pound dehydrator, and playing around with recipes that proved popular enough to sell. Next, he made up his mind to do some more research, this time on meat smoking.
“I decided I wanted to buy a smokehouse, so I got a smokehouse,” he explained. “And I taught myself. I’m self-taught with all this stuff.”
By “all this stuff,” Shane is referring to the Jeezum Crow Jerky line, which has traveled all the way to soldiers in Afghanistan; the smoked meats and cheeses; and the freshly tapped maple syrup-laced Tappin’ & Sappin’ sauces — all of which are sold within the D&D Meats general store. The in-house-made products also appear on the menu at D&D Meats’ foodservice counter.
“We do all kinds of cooking and a lot of it’s from scratch. That helps us vs. when you go to those chain stores and it’s like a microwaveable burger. Here, we make our own patties,” said Shane. “You’re getting a good quality sandwich for the same price as you’re paying for one that’s premade, that came out of a plastic wrapper, that has preservatives and stuff in it.”
The more than 100 products that the Dutils process in-house — oftentimes for those who bring in their own game — include all varieties of sausage, bacon, ground meat and smoked meat.
“You want grass-fed? I’ve got grass-fed. You want nitrate free? I’ve got nitrate free,” said Shane. “If you can’t deal with gluten and have celiac, I have products that fit that. If MSG gives you headaches, I make products with no MSG.”
In both Shane and Adrien’s minds, there is no question that the family’s convenience store that opened in the early 80s would be struggling today had it not evolved to become a purveyor of the high-quality, in-house-made products they now offer.
“That’s what’s saving us,” Adrien said of the changes, noting that mom-and-pop convenience stores like his are a “dying breed” as chains continue to pop up. “I’ve got Dollar Generals opening up in every direction from me. I can’t sell the milk for what they put it out for. Same thing with the soda. I can’t compete with them. But I can compete with my product.”
To learn more about D&D Meats, check out the July issue of Convenience Store News.