Celebrities love the fresh meat offerings at this Hawkinsville butcher shop
In the early 1960s, Phil Mathis’ father and grandfather began selling sausage to their friends, family and co-workers.
Today, Alvin Mathis and Fred Thompson’s father-son business business has grown into a massive retail destination in Hawkinsville called M&T Meats, with nearly 100,000 pounds of meat products coming in each week from their local farms.
“I am third generation. My father and grandfather started it. That is the M&T, Mathis and Thompson,” Phil said. “My father worked on base (Robins Air Force Base) at the time. He would carry sausage to the base and sell, which was illegal. But seeing as the general one of his main customers, he got by with it.”
In the beginning, Alvin Mathis and Thompson’s business plan was simple — the duo slaughtered three hogs per week. They didn’t sell any beef or chicken products at the time. They opened up a store that Phil’s mother, Judy, ran while his dad still worked on base in Warner Robins.
In 1992, Phil and his wife Tammy bought the business from his parents. From there, the pair began to expand M&T. Phil and Tammy bought an abattoir, or slaughterhouse, within their first year of ownership.
This allows them to oversee the process to ensure that it is done in a healthy, clean and humane way. Eventually, they would add a hog farm before diving into beef and chicken products. This saw a spike in business that pushed toward further expansion, including building and moving to a brand new store.
“12 years ago, I built the new building… it was kind of a leap of faith in the middle of Hawkinsville to have something this large.” Phil said. “I thought I overbuilt but it has worked out. It is kind of my field of dreams — if you build, they will come.”
And they came and are still coming.
M&T sells over 400 different meat products, from the normal to the exotic. An order sitting on Phil’s desk reads off like a small zoo — bison, elk, kangaroo, ostrich, quail and alligator.
“We have customers every day from New Jersey, Florida, Alabama. We ship to everywhere in the United States,” Phil said. “We ship to Alaska, we have shipped to John Travolta, Burt Reynolds and Morgan Freeman in California, who incidentally ate sausage while he was here during the Olympics in Atlanta.”
There’s an overwhelming number of options, but that is something that Phil has taken into consideration when planning how best to serve customers.
Each customer is assigned a specific butcher, and that butcher walks up and down the cases with the customer, handling all of the selections.
“The typical person that comes to M&T, they are not buying for one meal. They are buying for their freezer,” Phil said. “They will get to know you. ... Customer service is priority No. 1.”
Judy Grantham travels to M&T at least once every three weeks to get all of her meat. She said she enjoys the ability to have an individual helping her.
“They greet you, ready to fix it any way you want it because I usually get mine cut like my husband likes them,” Grantham said. “I come all the way from Cochran. It is wonderful.”
Everything at M&T is vacuumed sealed for freshness. Customers can also opt to have their meat sealed with a house marinade. Phil said the marinade is one of the key components of his business.
“Our marinade has evolved over 25 years,” he said. “It is not overpowering, it is more complimentary. I say the marinade built this building because we marinade probably 80 or 90 percent of the product that we sell.”
Phil said M&T offers a true farm-to-table experience. They bring in at least two different shipments from the farm for beef, pork and chicken three days a week. This ensures that they will have a fresh product daily.
“We control a lot more processes than most people. ...We are not at the mercy of other plants to control quality,” he said. “We have enough volume that it moves and stays fresh.”
Phil and Tammy said they will one day leave M&T to their children.
“I am going to give credit to my mom and dad as far as instilling a work ethic when I was growing up,” Phil said. “I am trying to instill that in my kids and hopefully the fourth generation will take it over. That is my dream.”
M&T Meats is open Tuesday to Saturday.