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From the Source: The unlikely origin story of The Butcher & Grocer and its owner, Tony Tanner

From the Source: The unlikely origin story of The Butcher & Grocer and its owner, Tony Tanner

Jack McLaughlin

In 2014, Tony Tanner sat holed up in a turkey-hunting blind with best friend, Rob “Earl” Young, a man who would be dead before the end of that year. And they both knew it,

Young was suffering from late-stage lung cancer, and the duo spent a significant portion of their trip just talking. According to Tanner, it wasn’t any sort of grand realization or cosmic questioning that stuck with him from their conversation, it was what his friend had to say about food.

“He was an IBM guy and was always doing research, and he started telling me about how so much of the food we eat is processed, and the consequences that has on our health,” Tanner said. “It’s not that he was saying processed food causes cancer outright, but he believed it at the very least didn’t help at all.”

Years later, this conversation would be on Tanner’s mind when he launched The Butcher & Grocer, the hugely-impactful artisan butcher shop and marketplace, and became one of the driving forces in a farm-to-table renaissance for Columbus.

Immediately after his conversation with Earl Young, however, Tanner was worlds away from running a butcher shop. He was serving as the Chief of Staff for Dave Yost during his stint as State Auditor. Tanner was a busy man, so at the time, he hadn’t given much more thought to what his friend had told him about food.


“I slowly started looking into it myself, though, and I pretty quickly learned that this is kind of disturbing. The fact that we’re injecting animals with hormones and with a regular antibiotic regimen, how we’re spraying Roundup on crop fields,” he said. “We learned at about five years old that we are what we eat, but for some reason that never extended to what the food we eat eats.”

And while Tanner admits he “isn’t the pillar of health,” he said eating more naturally-sourced foods that aren’t loaded with additives or hormones continues to benefit him to this day.

When he first began eating more consciously, Tanner would have an enormously difficult time finding Ohio beef, and he learned quickly that he couldn’t trust some of the larger sources who said they were providing it. Sure, farmers markets had it, but sometimes vendors sold out quickly, or sometimes the farms he would buy from wouldn’t show up to the market on a given day.

“So one day, after trying and not being able to buy anything, I had the crazy idea of opening my own butcher shop,” he said with a laugh. “So in 2016, I put a business plan together, went down to Huntington [Bank], and put everything I owned into opening the store.”

And people loved it.

 The first iteration of The Butcher & Grocer opened in Grandview in 2016, and it still stands today as a hub for conscious consumers and many more. Last spring, the Butcher & Grocer opened multiple food stalls inside The East Market, offering everything from prime beef cuts and fresh Ohio milk to made-to-order food, and Tanner even opened a wholesale arm of the company, called TB&G Meats that has operated on the east side for several years already.

According to Tanner, the concept’s most profitable year was 2020, followed by 2021 (he believes pandemic protein shortages played into this). And while 2022 has fallen to be on par with 2019, and he’s had to temporarily pause a pair of new locations, the concept is still alive and well.

Part of the reason is due to Tanner’s insistence on Ohio sourcing. Tanner, a life-long Central Ohian–who claims that since he was five years old he has only lived on streets that have a direct intersection with East Broad—has only on one occasion ever considered straying from this model and sourcing processed beef, before wholeheartedly rejecting it.

“I remember it was our first Christmas and we were about to sell out of rump roast. For a minute, I entertained the thought of buying some regular Ohio factory beef. I slept on it, and then I came to my senses, and realized there’s not enough money in the world to make me go back on something we really believe in,” Tanner said.

And that, if you ask us, is why Columbus is eating it up.


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