MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In many ways, the St. Paul Meat Shop is about as old fashioned as it gets. Home-made sausages are perfectly arranged behind a gleaming glass case. Sides of beef are hand-cut into perfect ribeyes and T-bones. But three of the butchers defy all stereotypes.
“We get that pretty often, people come in and say ‘Oh My Gosh, women in a meat shop,’” said Grace Guenthner, who along with Maya Benedict and Ilana Duby are in their 20s, Macalaster College graduates, and yes, they are women.
“The fact that I’m a woman is true,” said Duby, “but it doesn’t necessarily impact what people should expect from me in the level of service that they get.”
In fact, if it does impact the level of service, her bosses and her coworkers say it may impact it to the better.
“If you go into a butcher shop it’s the stereotype of big tatted-up guys, you feel like you have to know everything before you can even ask for a cut of steak,” noted Benedict.
“There are a lot of women who say it makes a more comfortable environment for them to shop for a product that may be unfamiliar with,” said Duby.
All three women took different, yet similar paths to working at the shop, on Grand Avenue in St. Paul right down the street from Macalaster’s campus. None had significant experience in butchering.
“My dad hunted a lot so I would help him take apart deer,” said Benedict, noting she was familiar with the work, but “not this familiar.”
Duby came to the job because of her interest in cooking, and learning more about the meat she used in the kitchen. Guenthner grew up in Osceola, and knew more about breaking down heads of lettuce than sides of beef.
“I grew up on a vegetable farm,” she said.
They say they want to be known as great butchers and great communicators, not necessarily as great women butchers.
“There’s a lot more to it than, it’s the meat. There’s a community aspect to it that is supported by the fact that we are confident, educated people,” Duby noted.
However, they acknowledged the challenges they face because of their gender. Customers who naturally go to a male co-worker, assuming he knows more than they do. And male coworkers who would interrupt while they were talking.
“It does happen, it happens,” said Duby and Benedict.
But they’ve also had incredible support from their neighbors and from each other.
“It’s made a huge impact to be surrounded by other women doing the same work and being able to talk about our role,” said Duby.
They said they hope by sharing their experience in a career that isn’t traditionally female, it will inspire other women who want to chase a non-traditional career.
“I’ve worked here for three years,” said Benedict, “I always really prefer it when it’s just the ladies working for a day.”
St. Paul Meat Shop
1674 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105