Family name lives on in ‘dying occupation’

Crowe’s Meat Processing, one of the well-known, family-owned meat processing businesses in the area, has been operated by the Crowe family, of Henagar, for 40 years now.

It all started in 1979 when Don Crowe and his wife, Helen, moved from Florida to Alabama with their son, Philip, and daughter, Kim, to carry on the family butchery business in the small town of Henagar.

The original butchery, located just off of Highway 40, has been a familiar sight for deer hunters and local cattle and hog farmers throughout the years. But now, since Philip recently opened Crowe’s Butcher Shop at 66 County Road 845 in Henagar, customers can get the same Crowe family quality meat at two locations.

The locals say, “some of the best sausage around is Crowe’s sausage” and that’s part of 

why Philip wanted to go into business for himself.

“I went from processing deer to needing more space so I could do beef and hogs also,” he said. “That’s when I decided to go into business for myself so I could keep the Crowe’s sausage around.”

Philip said he grew up watching his dad polish the art of butchering meat, and he followed in his footsteps. Today, Philip has been a butcher full time for 26 years.

“That’s what my parents were doing for a living, so that’s what I did,” he said. “I was brought up around it and I grew up watching my dad, so that’s how I learned.”

Philip said when his parents left Florida, their sights were set on making a living as butchers in rural Alabama. He said they knew it would be hard work, but “they were determined.” He said that determination has kept the business thriving in a time where butchers are “a dying breed.”

“It was tough for a while, but they made it through,” he said. “There is a butchery in South Pittsburg, one in Rainsville, and mine and my parent’s. From the past 30 years, they have dropped in half from how many there were 30 years ago.”

Philip said over the years, he has come to know generations of families. 

“Old timers, back in the day, they brought their beef and hogs and we [processed] them all the time,” he said. “The younger generation, their kids followed in their footsteps and started doing it, and now their kids are doing it, so I have actually seen three to four generations of people bringing animals.”

Philip said from customers to employees, family has been the foundation of the business.

“The whole family has helped,” he said. “We’ve had our arguments, but when you work with family day in and day out that’s bound to happen. If it wasn’t for my parents, though, I don’t know what I would do. They are the ones that taught me what I know and helped me get where I’m at.”

Just as he watched and learned from his dad, Philip has had eyes watching him as well. His stepson, Tyler White, said he has learned a lot from watching and helping his stepfather over the years.

“Every deer season since I was about 13, I always knew that I needed to be ready to work because Philip would need help,” White said. “Having to work at such a young age taught me responsibility and it helped me gain trust as I got older. I’ve learned a lot from it.” 

As far as the customer service goes, Philip said they cater to their customers.

“We can cut [the meat] up however the customer wants it,” he said. “Our customers bring them in and we cut them up and package them and put it in the freezer they come and get it and take it home.”

Philip said countless deer have been processed over the years.

“Most everyone wants cube steak, tenderloin, hamburger,” he said. “With beef, everyone wants rib-eye steak, T-bone steak, sirloins, roast, cube steak, hamburger. With hogs, you never really know. Most people want bacon, tenderloins, chops and sausage.”

Philip said everything is done in dressed weight. He said it is 60 cents a pound and skinning is $45.

“Deer are $70 all the way around the board,” he said. “Summer sausage is $12.50 a stick. Curing costs more and other extras costs more. We can make patties and sausage patties and all of that, except for the hamburger and sausage, is vacuumed sealed.”

Philip said after all the years of being in his line of work, the customers are still one of the main highlights.

“The best part is the customers,” he said. “I get to see them and talk to them and find out what’s going on with them. You’ve got to spend time with your customers. Repeat customers mean the world.”

Philip said the Crowe’s business has had its share of loyal customers over the years.

“Todd Shrader has been a real good customer for years and years and years,” he said. “The oldest customer we have is Lloyd Ivey and he’s 93. We cook sausage on Thursdays and Lloyd brings biscuits just about every Thursday unless he has a doctor’s appointment.

“We’ve been in the business for 40 years and we’ve had a lot of good people do business with us.”

If you’re looking to be a customer of the Crowe family, call Philip at Crowe’s Butcher Shop at 256-657-5327 or 256-717-7386, or Don at Crowe’s Meat Processing at 256-657-5511, for more information.

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