Small Business Spotlight: Circle M Meats
Ask Tami Mercer about her business Circle M Meats and it’s clear that her life priorities and business goals are closely intertwined. The conversation is all about good food, family and doing the right thing – even when no one else is looking.
Located just seven miles from Jackson’s Main Street, Circle M feels like a country oasis. It’s on Tami’s husband Wayne’s family farm. It’s where their kids grew up and where today the entire family pitches in to run the farm, a feed and supply store, processing plant and retail store that draw customers from far beyond the confines of Jackson County.
Longtime customers know Circle M as a feed and supply store where they can buy nutritious feed for their animals. Two years ago, they opened a retail store that has become wildly popular for its daily specials, deli counter, Circle M fresh and frozen meat, pantry items and an extensive line of foods from the Walnut Creek line of products made in Ohio’s Amish Country.
This beautiful red barn on a hill has front porch seating and is packed with goods that make it worth the drive for shoppers coming from elsewhere and convenient for folks who live in the neighborhood. “People stop all the time because they say it just looks so pretty outside they have to know what’s inside. Then they see all we have and keep coming back,” Tami explained.
The store boasts a large selection of deli meats and cheeses along with the buns, pickles and mustard necessary for a great sandwich. There are supplies for homemade pizzas, popcorn and canning. Ice cream novelties and slushies make for great summertime treats while hot beverages will warm up the traveler during cold weather. Homemade ham salad and hot dog sauce are also big sellers.
They offer custom veggie, cheese and meat trays that are perfect for parties and events. Daily specials include baked steak, sub sandwiches and sloppy joes. Taco Tuesday is another favorite. Plus, they take custom orders for prime rib, favorite cuts of filet mignon and Tomahawk steaks. They also stock veals from Newman’s Store in Wellston.
Customers can buy fresh and frozen beef and pork fresh from the farm in small packages and in large quantities like a quarter, half or whole beef. Custom meat boxes are personalized to suit budget, taste and needs. “We ask your budget and for you to tell us what your family likes. Then we build a box just for you!”
Speaking of meats, it is the fresh, local meat sales that lured them into opening this retail store two years ago. In fact, when discussing the business it’s important to understand the why behind what the Mercers do at Circle M. That story actually begins with a health crisis.
When Tami was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago her doctor asked why they were raising just their beef and not all their own meat. Since meat purchased from large scale packing facilities is not fresh, local, and consumers don’t know where or how it was raised.
The Mercers ordered chickens the very next day and set off on a journey to provide their family and others with wholesome local meat. “There are no extra hormones of any kind. My son is an Agronomist and he knows every ounce of everything in their diet so you know exactly what you’re eating from here,” she explained.
Unfortunately, there was a lengthy wait list with area butchers so Tami and Wayne eventually decided to open their own processing plant. “During Covid, consumers were able to only buy so many packages of meat at one time and they started to realize they had no idea where their meat was coming from. The butchers in the area had two year wait lists by then,” she said. “Lots of people were really starting to care where their meat comes from and wanting to buy local so it seemed like a great opportunity for us. And since all the butchers in the area were so busy, I didn’t worry about taking business away from anyone else. It seemed like there was room for everyone.”
Today, they are able to process beef, pork and lamb. They are federally licensed, allowing meat processed there to be sold outside of Ohio.
Tami said they have farmers travel from beyond Jackson County and the contiguous counties to have their animals processed. Plus, they serve five county fairs including Adams, Jackson, Pike, Scioto and Vinton counties.
She noted that the feed store also sells farm fresh eggs and square bales of straw as well as square and round bales of hay that are stored indoors. They cut 350-400 acres of hay twice annually and are careful to keep plenty on hand for area farmers.
Tami is a former hair dresser and admits she’s a people person. “It was hard to leave the beauty shop after 25 years but many of my customers come out here to see me and I still get to talk to people all day!”
Circle M employs fourteen people not including Tami or Wayne, a lineman for the City of Jackson. It is very much a family affair. Their son Austin graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Agronomy and Blake from the same college with a degree in Animal Science and Meat Science. Austin comes home from his full-time job to pitch in, Blake manages the harvest floor and feed store, and Blake’s girlfriend Kalyn is the plant manager for the butcher shop. It is definitely a family affair and something that makes the Mercers very proud.
She credits 4-H for helping shape her kids into the people they are today. “Our kids were in 4-H from the time they were small. They started as Clover Buds at five years old and I truly believe being raised in 4-H made a difference.”
Their education has allowed the farm to be more accurate in keeping fields healthy and in feeding their livestock precisely what is needed to keep them healthy and growing naturally.
While they do advertise some and have a Facebook page, it is word of mouth advertising that Tami credits for helping the business succeed. “People come here and, if they have a good experience, they like what they see, they’re happy with our products, they will tell their friends. We want people to love it so we’ll see them again!”
Learn more at their website and follow them on Facebook for daily specials and news. Visit them at 7365 State Route 776, Jackson.