Chances are you’ve seen the big neon sign of a pig holding up a bag of money on Hastings Street. Now’s your chance to learn the story behind Save on Meats, an unlikely Vancouver icon that’s been serving up fresh cuts since 1957, and find out if the business will remain afloat.
On Tuesday, Nov. 27, Save on Meats is appearing on CBC’s The Big Decision, the hit reality show that focuses on Canadian businesses working to survive in a difficult economy. The show’s investors must decide whether to step in and fund the struggling company or leave it to battle on alone.
Here’s hoping that Save on Meats gets the funding it needs. The butcher shop has been operating at the same location since 1957, offering discount cuts to hungry Vancouverites and residents of the Downtown Eastside. In the 1990s, former owner Al DesLauriers began receiving offers for the century-old building from condo developers. He refused. DesLauriers explained he’d rather give the business away for free to a new generation of butchers than sell out.
Ultimately, Save on Meats closed and stayed vacant for several years (though the neon pig sign continued to illuminate Hastings Street after dark). In 2011, local restaurateur Mark Brand (who’s also behind Boneta, Sea Monstr Sushi and The Diamond) stepped in with a new vision. After giving the landmark a million-dollar facelift and restoring the neon sign, he reopened Save on Meats as a butcher shop with an adjoining 40-seat lunch counter, breathing new life into a depressed section of the Downtown Eastside.
The food – decadent, old school diner fare like meatloaf, tuna melts, Reubens and banana splits – is excellent and the prices, at least for downtown Vancouver, are a steal. The $6.95 “The Burger” special – a butcher-shop-fresh bacon burger with fries – might just be the best burger deal in the city.
But good food and a great vision apparently aren’t enough. After being opened for less than two years, Save on Meats is in financial trouble. Owner Brand faces mounting debts and the building needs further renovation. Will he get the investment he needs to keep Save on Meats running?
Find out this Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 9 p.m. on CBC’s The Big Decision.
Any other Save on Meats fans out there? Let us know below.
Want more updates on Vancouver and beyond? Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.