When Ole Miss alumni Buck Cunningham moved back to Oxford in 2008, he felt it would be nice to grill a steak one night for dinner. So he and his wife, Lucy, made their way over to Kroger, but, unfortunately, no steaks were available.
Unemployed at the time, Cunningham decided to open the only butcher shop in Oxford. He named the shop LB’s Meat Market. L and B are the couple’s initials.
In June of 2015, Greg Jones, a cashier who began working at LB’s five years ago, bought the shop. It didn’t take him long to learn how to cut meat and run the business.
Since Jones has taken over LB’s, he hasn’t made many changes. He wanted to keep the same customer base. He said one reason LB’s can compete with stores like Kroger and Walmart is because people care about the kind of food they are putting in their bodies.
LB’s chooses locally-sourced beef and pork, which may cost more, but is better quality. Jones tries to offer products people can’t find anywhere else.
He said one of the most important parts of his business is educating customer on the product. Filets are his best-selling items.
LB’s uses mostly Hereford beef, which is a brown-bodied, white-headed cattle. Popular products also include grass-fed beef on order, bacon-wrapped pork chops, jalapeno poppers, and duck poppers.
Jones has three core employees and a few college students to help out throughout the year. The three positions in the shop are cashier, butcher and shop cleaner. He values hard-working students.
“One of the worst things a job applicant can do is tell me that they are getting a job because their parents say they have to,” Jones said. “I understand that this is a college town, so I am flexible with my employees. One of the first things I actually ask during an interview is to see their class schedule because they are in Oxford to learn.”
LB’s only advertises at baseball games. Jones said many students don’t know about LB’s because of the lack of advertising and the store location. He gets most business through word-of-mouth in Oxford.
LB’s market has a wide assortment of steaks, chicken and sausage in view as you enter the store. They don’t have tables or anywhere to sit, even though there is a lunch menu with various items made from the fresh meats. Jones said that’s because they don’t have room for a bathroom in the shop.
The two most popular items on the lunch menu are the Filet Burger and the Chicken Bacon Ranch. In an average week, LB’s sells around 30 lbs. worth of filet burgers.
According to Jones, baseball players are some of the most frequent customers. LB’s also serves the whole team a few times each semester.
LB’s customer base is about 60 percent local residents, and the other 40 percent are Ole Miss students. Football season also brings in a greater amount of customers, especially for game day weekends.
Ole Miss sophomore Gene Loper said the staff is helpful and knowledgeable about their product.
“Whenever I go in, they are able to talk about the meat, where it comes from, and how to best prepare it,” he said. “Whenever my parents come in for tailgating, they usually pick up some food from LB’s.
“I also sometimes grab a ribeye or filet and grill with my girlfriend. She has grown up eating steak, so it’s great to have a butcher in Oxford with good quality.”
Jones said one of his major struggles is when payroll, taxes, and a few major food orders go through at the same time. He said $10,000 could be gone in just one day.
“I never went to college,” he said. “I don’t have a degree, and I own a business, so that is sometimes a struggle for me,” Jones said. “Sometimes, when it comes to paying the bills, I have to rely on other people’s judgment. When I clock out for the day, I think about how I can be more successful.”
In the future, Jones hopes to serve food at the baseball stadium. He thinks he could do well selling sausages and other lunch items during the game.
Jones hopes to open a second location on West Jackson Avenue as the town’s population increases.