- Associated Press - Saturday, February 4, 2017

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Regular customers of Long’s Meat Market in south Eugene already know the new owner.

Robert Frye had been a butcher at Long’s for 31 years before he and his wife, Loretta, purchased it and became owners last Nov. 30.

The Fryes bought the business in the Southtowne Shoppes near East 28th Avenue and Oak Street for an undisclosed amount from Mike Wooley, who has retired.

They have added some fresh produce to the shop, but otherwise aren’t planning to make major changes at the business, a 90-year-old Eugene retail institution, reported The Register-Guard (https://bit.ly/2kSkavE).

Wooley, 58, said he had hoped Frye would buy the shop, so he offered it to his former employee rather than put the business on the market.

Wooley, who acquired the business from his father, said it is reassuring for him and his former customers to have a familiar, friendly face behind the counter as owner.

“My goal was to keep Long’s intact,” Wooley said.

Customers and coworkers made the job at Long’s worth turning into a career, Frye, 52, said. “We get to know a lot of people …,” he said. “Become friends with a lot of them, too. That’s the main thing. And just guys we work around are pretty cool.”

Loretta Frye, 53, said buying Long’s was similar to purchasing a house. “It’s just a bigger scale,” she said.

Dates to 1927

Long’s history dates to Ernest “Butch” Long, who opened the shop in 1927 on Charnelton Street.

The business moved twice, retaining its reputation for selling high quality meat.

Long’s son, Melvin Long, took over the shop after serving in World War II. He brought in two partners, Marley Sims and Les Hettick. The trio moved the shop to the Stanley Market at Willamette Street and 16th Avenue, which later changed its name to the L&L; Market. Sims later bought out Melvin Long and Hettick.

Dick Wooley, Mike Wooley’s father, started working as an apprentice at Long’s in 1959. Fifteen years later, Dick Wooley bought the business from Sims.

Wooley ran the business for another 20 years, before retiring and selling it to his son in 1994.

Frye, meanwhile, had started working at Long’s in 1985.

He had grown up in Powers, a small Coos County town. During his high school years, he had a job cleaning a grocery store’s meat department. A butcher showed him some meat-cutting techniques, and he was hooked.

Frye moved to Eugene after high school, working briefly at Mazzi’s Italian restaurant on East Amazon Drive.

He then enrolled at Oregon Meat Cutting School in Cottage Grove.

“I pretty much had an idea of where the cuts came from and all that before I started meat cutting school,” he said. “I had a jump start on it.”

Frye spent six months learning the finer points of cutting meat at the school, which placed him at a grocery store in Ritzville in eastern Washington.

With help from people he had met at Mazzi’s, he eventually returned to Eugene to take a job at Long’s Meat Market.

By the time Mike Wooley had acquired the shop from his father in 1994, concerns about cholesterol in meat had put pressure on meat sales nationally and in Eugene. Sales at Long’s had declined to the point that Frye was “my only employee when I bought (Long’s) from my dad,” Mike Wooley said.

Meat regained popularity in the years after he bought Long’s, which helped the shop’s sales.

In 2004, Wooley moved Long’s from the L&L; Market on Willamette Street to the Southtowne Shoppes. He added a deli, cheese and wine shop in 2006 by expanding into an adjacent space.

Wooley declined to provide financial details, but said sales had increased eight fold over the 22 years that he owned the business.

A key to Long’s success is selling primarily locally raised meat, Wooley said. “Before even people knew that was the right thing to do, we were doing it,” Wooley said. “We were ahead of our time.”

Met over meat

Twelve people, including the two Fryes, now work at Long’s. Scott Wooley, Mike Wooley’s son, continues to keep the shop’s books.

Long’s brought the Frye’s together.

They met at the shop about 20 years ago, when Loretta, then Loretta Vance, brought Robert Frye’s father, Robert “Hawk” Frye, to Long’s to pick up some meat.

At the time, both the younger Frye and Vance were married to other people.

Those marriages ended, and about eight years ago, Robert and Loretta began dating. They married three years ago.

Now, as owners, he manages the meat counter, and she manages the deli and wine shop.

“He has his side, and I have my side. And we meet in the middle at night and discuss both sides,” Loretta Frye said.

Long’s occupies about 4,500-square feet of leased space in the Southtowne Shoppes, which includes Barry’s Espresso Bakery & Deli, Cook’s Pots & Tabletops, and Beaudet Jewelry Design.

At this point, the Fryes do not plan to expand their shop or add another outlet.

“People always ask if we’ll expand, but it’s too hard,” Robert Frye said.

Frye said customer service and local meats help set Long’s apart from competitors.

Beef comes from Knee Deep Cattle Company of Eugene. Lamb is acquired from Anderson Ranches of Brownsville, and pork comes from Carlton Farms, near McMinnville. During the summer, Long’s also sells locally grown chicken.

Frye said buying sides of meat and cutting them in the shop helps keep the price of items like grass-fed beef down.

Many restaurants in Eugene-Springfield, including Marché, Oregon Electric Station, Tacovore and Plank Town Brewing, buy meat from Long’s.

Loyal customers

The shop attracts customers from near and far.

Customers have told Loretta Frye that they travel from Bend, Portland and other cities to shop at the store.

Jane Grant, 63, of Eugene lives near Long’s. She said she stops by nearly every day, mainly because of the quality and variety of meat.

“You can throw a party and all you need to do is come here,” Grant said.

Taryn Wilson, 31, of Mapleton drives about 45 miles to shop at Long’s. She makes the trek weekly.

“I kind of stock up when I come,” she said during a visit to the store.

Wilson typically buys lamb, ground beef and other meats.

The quality of the meat and the reasonable prices draw her to Long’s, she said. Long’s employees know her voice if she calls to check on what’s available. They greet her by name when she walks into the store.

“I love coming here,” Wilson said.


Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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