The return of the neighborhood butcher shop

Evergreen Butcher + Baker is one of several innovative butcher shops to open in recent years

The return of the neighborhood butcher shop
Sean and Emma Schacke, Evergreen Butcher + Baker

Photography by Ben Rollins

By 2018, Sean and Emma Schacke were longtime veterans of the restaurant industry and wanted freedom. That freedom was to have their own butcher shop and bakery, to combine their respective skills, sink their roots into a place, and settle. The couple found the right place in Kirkwood, on Hosea Williams Drive—a two-story brick building with an apartment on top that made their morning commute a staircase. But their ambition was met by the challenge of responsibly bringing back a craft of a bygone era.

“Emma brought the baking side, which is a staple, but having a butcher shop today is a risk, with it being an older business,” says Sean, the butcher. “We had to think about how we can be marketable to that older, nostalgic crowd, but also to a younger audience.”

The couple opened Evergreen Butcher + Baker in September 2019, with that question in mind. Sean’s answer was sustainability for himself and customers. “When you’re a butcher, you realize when walking into a store that there’s only one hanger steak per cow,” Sean says. “So 12 hanger steaks represent 12 different animals.” Sean is a whole-animal butcher, who leaves no meat on the bone when working with pork, turkey, or beef. He sources a set number of animals weekly from Georgia farms that produce grass-fed and antibiotic-free animals. During its opening week, Evergreen’s meat case—filled with steaks, bacon, smoked turkey, and deli meats—sold out daily to people of all ages.

“Looking back, whole-animal [butchery] was a no-brainer,” Sean says. “People care more today about where their food comes from, and that extends to meat.”

“And we can offer them bread for their sandwiches too,” Emma adds.

The return of the neighborhood butcher shop
Sean Schacke cuts from a pork shank for a special order.

Photography by Ben Rollins

Evergreen’s success coincides with a resurgence of the butchery industry throughout the nation. American butcher shops are no longer in decline, with research data showing growth in revenue and in the number of employees and businesses since 2019. Many are finding success offering meat with a side, via a connected restaurant, a retail market, or, as in Evergreen’s case, a bakery. In Atlanta, Evergreen is one of several innovative butcher shops to open in recent years. Buckhead Butcher Shop, which specializes in gourmet cuts, started in 2020 and moved to a new, larger location in 2023 to host events and cooking classes. In January, Nick Leahy, formerly of Nick’s Westside, opened Vice Kitchen in Johns Creek as a butcher shop and market.

Sean and Emma’s journey started 12 years ago at One Eared Stag, the Inman Park restaurant on Edgewood Avenue that closed in 2021, where Sean worked as a chef and Emma as a pastry chef. After moving together to Chicago, Sean received formal training as a butcher at Publican Quality Meats, and Emma added breadmaking to her repertoire at Pleasant House Bakery. The couple then migrated to Portland, Maine, where Emma worked in a bakery and Sean in a small butcher shop. Evergreen Butcher + Baker as the next step just made sense.

“We wanted to move back to Atlanta while still focusing on our crafts together,” Emma says. “Throughout our careers, tradition has been important to us, so we also chose staples for our menu rather than reinventing the wheel.”

Evergreen’s offerings take full advantage of its unique marriage. Daily lunch specials include sandwiches made with deli cuts by Sean and sourdough, rye, or multigrain bread by Emma. The pastry case is filled with chocolate croissants and kouign-amanns, but also savory sausage rolls and ham and cheese croissants. The setup also reflects the couple’s restaurant experience. In the morning, Emma and Sean fill both pastry and meat cases to what they call “abbondanza,” Italian for “abundance,” so you have as many options as possible and don’t feel bad taking the last cookie. You can also see all the happenings of the kitchen behind the counter, which Emma hoped to have after her experience working at a bakery in Amsterdam. “It makes everything more accessible,” Emma says. “Customers can see everything that we are making, and we can better help them.”

The pandemic stymied some of their early success, with Emma and Sean able to pay only a few employees. The couple set up a table at their door to take orders. The trials of the time also forced Evergreen to evolve. When business was slow on Sundays, Sean and Emma had the idea of using leftover beef to offer burgers for lunch, with Emma making the sesame buns. They started with making 50 burgers, but the burgers became a smash hit, with lines out the door and down the block. Four years later, Emma and Sean make around 170 burgers every Sunday and still sell out within an hour.

“We love how popular it’s gotten, but we do see some people get upset when we run out,” Sean says. “It’s people who don’t normally shop with us, so they don’t understand we’re not a burger place.” Emma adds, “We are using all the meat we have left for the burgers, so when we’re out, we’re totally out.”

The return of the neighborhood butcher shop
The Schackes like “abbondanza,” or abundance, to fill their meat and pastry cases with many options.

Photography by Ben Rollins

Emma and Sean aren’t planning to add another location, but want to see how far Evergreen can branch out. The couple recently bought a small farm in Cleveland, Georgia, where they have a vegetable garden and orchard to source ingredients for sandwiches and salads. On their off day, they work on the farm, with hopes of one day hosting pop-up dinners there. Three butchers now assist Sean daily, and Emma has hired six bakers, along with her first assistant, to help ease the burden of achieving daily abbondanza.

The couple still haven’t let go of their daily routine, though. Emma wakes up every day at 3:30 a.m., makes a cup of coffee for herself, and begins to bake at 4:00. Sean joins Emma in the fray around 5:30. With cuts prepared from the previous day, he loads the meat case. His favorite items right now are the deli meats, made all the better thanks to his new slicer; the meat comes out so thin, people ask if it’s Boar’s Head. Even though they have employees at the register, Emma and Sean gravitate toward the counter when they open at 7:00 a.m.

“I just get really excited when I can answer a family’s questions about the farms our animals come from and what they eat,” Sean says. “It’s an experience I think people want and haven’t gotten in a long time.”

This article appears in our June 2024 issue.