by Ben Schooley
For well over 100 years, the Bergheim General Store serviced the small community approximately 15 miles east of Boerne. A favorite for locals, you could stop in there and grab a pair of Wranglers, some fruit, beer, and even random nuts/bolts and tools. It was a true GENERAL store for ranchers and farmers that have inhabited the area since it was founded.
In 2019, the 5th generation owners, Stanley and Charlene Jones, decided to retire and sold the beloved General Store and everything inside was auctioned off. This past fall, Bill Bird and Joe Doria began looking at the property for a potential new idea. Bird (previous owner of Merdes Benz of Boerne) brought the financing. Doria brought a lifelong knowledge of the meat industry, and one seriously strong perspective on “service”.
With that, the Bergheim Meat Market was born.
Doria, a 2nd generation butcher, is passionate about his craft. He begins, “I’m a 2nd generation butcher. My dad was a floor butcher – he was the guy that works in the slaughterhouse and actually had to kill the animals, hang them upside down, and process them. I was probably 17 when I started doing that. I’ve been cutting meats since I was 9. It’s all part of the process and with a big family everybody had a job in it. My job was the one that would always have to kill the animal, but then that got to where I was old enough and was driving and delivering the meats. I have always enjoyed the harvesting side of things. The process really starts with the harvest because if it’s harvested incorrectly, it shows up in the quality of the meat. I can tell if an animal was not harvested correctly and my dad and I always had a passion for treating an animal properly going into the kill chute, and we treat them with respect.”
Learning the art of butchering is something Joe took seriously, and quickly began to define his career path. He continues, “I went to a mom and pop beef house in New Braunfels and I learned so much while I was there. I learned how to cut big box style, which was to cut for the display in the grocery stores. I was very fortunate as I learned and knew everyone in the meat business…and I would just watch. You respected a butcher back then, and you never interrupted him – and they were held to such a high respect. I used that skill and I was cutting meat on my own soon after. George Waits had the best reputation for the best meats and JP Doria Produce Company started soon after.”
After a successful business, Joe moved into wholesale where was until 2002. Then he worked at another small butcher shop in San Antonio for the past 20 years. From there, Doria and Bird began to brainstorm on doing their own thing. He continues, “Bill Bird and I had been friends since i was 6 years old. We’re cousins by marriage. We grew up together and I’ve always owned my own business, and he’s always been the same. We’ve always enjoyed quality and service and Bill asked me “Ever thought about going back on your own?” We talked and talked about it. The guy that bought the General Store came into the store and said “What would it take for a meat market in the general store?” How costly is it?”
While the brainstorming continued, Doria caught COVID this past March. Enduring 24 days in the ICU, 12 on life support, and completely flat-lined at one point. Obviously a life changing moment. When he thankfully recovered, he figured “Life is short – so I went back to Bill and agreed, and we were set as 50/50 partners.”
Opening just a few weeks ago, Joe has quickly taken his passion and used it to cultivate what he trusts will be a successful venture. He explains, “My passion has always been animal husbandry and service. I grew up very poor but my dad owned restaurants and meat packing businesses. I grew up in auction barns and slaughterhouses and cleaning pens – it was second nature to me in this industry. I loved it. I come from a family of 8, and I’m the baby. Even my sisters, all 6 of them, grew up with a knife in their hand. When dad got back from the war, he had a one bedroom slaughterhouse and he handled all of south Texas. I learned the culinary art part of meat and how to present it properly and make people feel good about it and sell an experience. The personal service has always been so important to me – my dad was an entrepreneur and we ran with all the guys in the meat world, and I was a young kid – and I learned so much about this market of meat and how it works and what makes it work.”
And he is certainly making it work. But not on his own. Doria explains, “Good money follows good business, and vice versa. I’ve always believed that. If you do it right, the business is going to come. But what’s your reward? Is it money? Or is it in your heart? For me, it’s in my heart. I can live on what I make, and that’s all I really need. And my team thinks the same. David, Shawn, Claire, and John…these are all people that I hand selected and have worked with all of them. They share the same passion as I do and I couldn’t do anything without them.”
As for what gets Joe up in the morning, he quickly answers, “It is early on for us as a business, but I think for people that know me and Bill – we’re here to make a difference in people’s lives. We want to provide them an exemplary service from each step of the process. I’m not big on planning but at the end of the day I am always asking myself “Did I make a difference today? Did I do my best? Did I sell my product at a fair price with the best quality?” And so far, I’ve done it every single day. And I’m so excited to get to do this in Bergheim now. I can’t wait to meet everyone.”