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Willowside Meats, Old School Charm with a Spicy Edge

We’ve all done it. Driven past a place of interest a thousand times and promised ourselves we’d stop and check it out. When I finally made that stop at Willowside Meats on Guerneville Road, I discovered a butcher shop with a mix of old-world charm and a modern spicy edge. The aroma of delicious smoked meats beckoned me inside and floated through my five senses, making my brain think of one thing - BBQ.

Deservedly called one of the last old-school family run butcher shops, Willowside Meats has three generations of the Taylor family and their employees all dancing around each other as they process, package and greet customers with a gracious air. It takes one back to a time when people lived simpler lives and weren’t afraid to stop and smile at one another.

John Taylor, who co-owns Willowside Meats with his business partner Chris Peterson, shared a bit of the past with me, when as a young boy, he helped his grandfather Ken Howard in the butcher shop, back in the late 60’s. There have been several proprietors since John’s grandpa, including Don Alberigi, who is still part of the shop. When John and Chris came into the business this last May, John was continuing a timeless family tradition.

Daughter Emily Taylor is the Jill-of-all-trades as she helps with packaging, handles the front counter with her glowing smile and cheerful manner, and has designed their logo, among other tech related jobs. I couldn’t have been more delighted meeting Carol, John’s mom, the smiling matriarch of the family.

Chris is the spice and herb master. He lets his imagination soar with new and inventive ways to mix ingredients, while keeping the time-tested recipes alive, concoctions Don worked so hard to create. With more than 20 different sausages to choose from such as Uncured Smoked Andouille, Portuguese Hawaiian, Kielbasa with Jalapenos and Cheese, and Traditional German Potato Sausage (Emily’s Opa’s recipe) to name a few, there is a sausage for every kind of yen with even more creations in the works.

John and Chris love hearing requests for custom designed meats and bringing the customer a product even better than they imagined. And if a customer doesn’t want nitrates in their meat, Chris makes sure to use the substitute, celery powder, which is a natural nitrate.

When I finally left the shop, anticipating the tri-tip under my arm residing on the grill, the charcoaled smoke wafting around our noses, I couldn’t help thinking how Willowside is not just a shop that sells meat, but a family that spreads warmth. A commodity just as important as the flavors that tickle our taste buds.

3421 Guerneville Road

Santa Rosa, CA 95401


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