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Bath’s Brunty Farms to open butcher shop in old Flower Hutch location

Posted: August 2, 2017

by John Benson

 

For the better part of the last decade, Bath Township’s Brunty Farms has provided the area with all-natural, pasture-raised eggs and meats. Now, the Martin Road family farm, owned and run by Jeff and Melanie Brunty on 17 acres in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is expanding in a major way. 

 

This fall, the couple will open The Farmer’s Rail Artisanal Meats and Butcher Shop. They recently signed a lease for the property that formerly housed the Flower Hutch on North Cleveland Massillon Road.

 

“The owner [of the Flower Hutch] had passed away in March, and his wife and daughter tried to continue it,” said Melanie, 30. “It just became available about four weeks ago. We’ve been wanting to build a butcher’s shop for a while. When this opportunity came up, we jumped on it. It seemed like the next step for us.”

 

The property is owned by Ed and Jennifer Kuchar, who own more than180 acres in Bath and acquired the building in 2005. Another tenant resides in the three-bedroom apartment in the building’s upper level.

 

When the Flower Hutch closed, the Kuchars began a private search for a new tenant.

 

“Brunty Farms is a perfect match,” said Ed Kuchar. “Not only was this building once home to a butcher shop,  the nature of their business – organic meats, eggs, etc. – is a perfect fit for our community.”

 

Melanie said they hope to open the shop by Nov. 1. The Farmer’s Rail, which is being completely renovated inside, with the addition of deli display coolers and meat processing equipment, will likely offer a larger product line and more locally produced products than the Martin Road store, she said.

 

“We’ll do making the sausage and the cutting of the meats there,” said Melanie. 

 

Brunty Farms started its expansion three years ago when the Bruntys added an additional farm in Ashland. Jeff said he’s excited to offer shoppers a more convenient location in Bath while attracting new customers. 

 

“Martin Road has been great, but we’ve been a little off the beaten path here,” said Jeff, 31. “It’s exciting to have this opportunity to grow and continue our expansion in the community by specializing in all-natural, pasture-raised eggs and meats, including poultry, pork, beef and lamb. Think of your old-school mom-and-pop shop. We are bringing it back.”

 

Being old-school is nothing new to the Bruntys, who while still in their early 20s decided to turn back the clock when they agreed to lease the Cuyahoga Valley National Park land in 2008. The extensive operation closely mirrors the type of farm that populated the Cuyahoga Valley in the 19th century.

 

This involves a circle-of-life approach: Sheep graze the pastures to the proper height so that chickens can eat there, pigs root through the gardens and provide natural cultivating and fertilizer, chickens scratch through and spread manure, and all produce sold is grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Rainwater runoff is contained in a pond to irrigate the gardens and water the stock.

 

Over the last decade, Jeff said the biggest learning curve had little to do with the land or farming. It was “managing the right amount of growth, along with employees and cash flow.’’

 

“There is a huge demand for what we do, but financing options are slim,” said Jeff. “It’s tricky being young and being farmers. And employees that are hardworking, willing to get a little dirty and have loyalty are tough to come by, but we are figuring it out.”

 

They are planning to soon hire additional employees for The Farmer’s Rail. 

 

Part of Brunty Farms’ success involves its Community Supported Agriculture shares, which finds community members to pledge financial support during winter months to help keep the business alive. In return, investors receive a share of fresh, quality items at a discounted price. 

 

“We also sell at farmers markets, and over the last few years you’re able to find our eggs at Mustard Seed [Market and Café], Earth Fare and other locations,” Melanie said. “Most of our advertising has been word-of-mouth. Pretty much, we haven’t really done much of anything else. And every penny we’ve made, we’ve just reinvested straight back into the farm.” 

 

Looking back at the farm’s growth and success over the last decade, Melanie is amazed, while keeping a firm eye on the future. 

 

“It’s unbelievable, and it’s been a total whirlwind,” Melanie said. “We’re really excited. Nervous excited. Jeff and I are just thrilled at the opportunity. We have a pretty good following for the farm, and I think this exposure will allow us even a larger opportunity to expand.” 

 

Melanie said she never expected her career to take this path. She calls it a feel-good story. 

 

“I never saw myself being a farmer,” Melanie said. “I have two degrees in international business and marketing. Jeff is the brainchild of the farm life, and we both just have very entrepreneurial spirits. It’s just been persistence and dedication and that grit of wanting to follow your dream and make it happen no matter what. 

 

“There’s been a lot of sacrifices and help from friends and family.”

 

When asked if she or her husband would do anything differently over the last decade, she said, “No, not a thing.”

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