Butcher's business has endured five decades Bowman's has grown to 4-building operation

November 05, 1995|By Ashley Gray | Ashley Gray,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Denwood Bowman and his wife, Rosalie, have been butchering animals for more than 55 years in Churchville.

Mr. Bowman, 82, started the business in 1940 that began with his selling custom cuts of meat from the back of his pickup truck. The business is now run by his granddaughter and her husband, Julie and Don Johnson.

Butchering beef as a full-time job hadn't entered his mind, Mr. Bowman said, until a local farmer approached him about killing a steer. He was working in a grocery store at the time. Eventually, Mr. Bowman decided to go into business for himself.

Bowman's processes cattle, buffalo and sheep. It also butchers deer for hunters.

After cattle are slaughtered, sides of beef, which weigh an average of 350 pounds each, are sent to the hotbox, where they hang two days. During that time, moisture is drawn from the meat. Then, the 8-foot-long sides of beef hang in an aging box -- a 16-foot-by-24-foot cooler -- for 10 days to two weeks, Mr. Johnson said.

Bowman's butchers then custom cut the fore- and hindquarters depending on the customer's preferences on thickness of steaks, weight of roasts and ground beef.

Rarely, Mr. Johnson said, a customer will want a whole beef prepared as ground beef. That's 300 pounds of hamburger.

Over the years, Mr. Bowman expanded his business from a one-room shop to the four buildings now on the property along Route 22.

When the Bowmans wanted to retire, they turned the business over to the Johnsons, who have been running it for 12 years.

"I grew up here. I've always lived here and been around," said Mrs. Johnson, 37. "It just sort of happened" that she and her husband took over the business, she said.

Mr. Johnson, also 37, used to work in a Havre de Grace garage, but during the winters business was slow. So, he started working around Bowman's and learned butchering soon after graduating from high school.

Mr. Bowman learned the trade many years ago while working in the meat department of the American Store Co., now the Acme Market chain.

Mrs. Johnson describes the business as family-oriented. She and her husband have maintained the business values her grandparents started with, and added some of their own. The store sells exotic meats, for example, such as frog legs, pheasant and alligator tail.

The Johnsons' three children -- Benjamin, 15; Nicholas, 13; and Megan, 12 -- help around the shop. They all provide a service that Mr. Johnson said will always be in demand.

"We started working there in high school," Mrs. Johnson said. "And we're still there."

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