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When Bill Miner opened Il Porcellino Salumi in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood in October 2015, his plan was to provide locals with fresh-cut meats, handcrafted charcuterie, and bomber sandwiches. Five years in, the company has succeeded on those fronts. It’s also transformed a farmers’-market salami retail business into a burgeoning wholesale operation with real estate in Pitkin county.
From the salumeria’s USDA-inspected production kitchen and warehouse in Basalt, Miner and his team supply cured meats to dozens of Colorado restaurants (Ultreia, Rioja, and the Bindery are just a few), retailers in 30 states, and the brand’s new online store. And after working for more than a year to get its product into Whole Foods Markets, Il Porcellino shipped its first order to 35 stores in March, just as the pandemic set in.
“The timing couldn’t have been better for us, since people are shopping more at grocery stores right now,” Miner told 5280. The Whole Foods accounts have been crucial, he added, since COVID-related restaurant dining restrictions and closures have dwindled off-premise sales to nearly nothing.
As Il Porcellino enters year six, Miner remains focused on sustainable growth. “You have to be aware of what’s going on in the world,” he said, “If you’re not constantly on top of things, you’re going to fail.” Here, the butcher-cum-businessman chats about scaling recipes, small farms, and how buying local makes the world go ’round.
5280: How does what you’re doing now compare with what you expected when you opened five years ago?
Bill Miner: I was cooking sandwiches then, and now my role is business growth and sales. It’s just a very different business, and for me, it’s not hands-on anymore. But at the deli, I feel like we’re in a perfect position for what’s going on right now. A lot more people in the neighborhood are working from home, and it’s a great spot for people to come in and grab a quick lunch. And we sell fresh meat and hot dinners so they can buy things to bring home and cook.
How do your deli recipes translate as you’ve scaled up production in your Basalt wholesale facility?
We’ve gone from making 25-pound batches [at the deli] to 400-pound batches [in Basalt]. We have to tweak things on a larger scale, but it’s amazing that recipes will pretty much translate into larger batches. It’s more about getting used to the equipment. We hand trim all of the meat and mix the spices by hand, stuff it into natural casings, and hand tie it. So it’s still a truly handcrafted product.
With the sheer increase in your output, are you still able to source meat from local farms?
Everything we do on Tennyson Street is sourced locally. But with the scale [in Basalt], there aren’t enough pigs being raised in Colorado to serve where we’re at. Also, Colorado’s a big state — Durango is 500 miles from Denver—so it really all depends on how you define local. We’re working with Red Top Farms Co-op in the upper Midwest, and Peterson Farms in Texas; they’re still small, family-owned farms and the animals are all raised on pasture, so we still feel like we’re supporting the right people.
The pandemic has significantly disrupted supply chains in the meat industry. Did that affect your business, as the industry at-large struggled?
A lot of big slaughter facilities were getting shut down and having to run on a smaller workforce because people were getting sick [with COVID-19]. We definitely saw a price increase [for ingredients] for a few months, but we were able to get what we needed, and lately, it’s been pretty much business as usual.
Do you think smaller operations—like yours and the farms you work with—are able to be more nimble and responsive in these kinds of tricky situations?
Yeah, I’ve always been a big proponent of working with small farms… If you’re working with these big, big farmers, they’re probably not raising the animals properly, which is a big deal to me. And they might not need me as a customer because they’re so big. Working with other small businesses, we help each other out—if the small guys are helping the small guys, it helps everybody [along the supply chain]. The big guys will always be there; like with restaurants, your neighborhood restaurant may or may not make it through the pandemic, but Chipotle will always be there.
Il Porcellino in Berkeley is open for take-out only, Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 4324 W. 41st Ave., 303-477-3206