Photo credit: Shaw Photography Co
Caitlin and Tom Moriarty were working full-time jobs when they opened Moriarty Meats as a part-time business in January 2018, bringing whole-animal butchery to Buffalo. Soon, they knew the opportunity to fully commit to their dream had arrived.
Here’s how Pursuit and Bank on Buffalo helped Caitlin and Tom – partners in work and life – to purchase and renovate a property for their growing business. Now, they’re achieving their dream in a revered Buffalo location that’s as cherished as their specialty butchery.
Testing the waters
Tom had extensive training as a butcher, including at France’s premier butchery academy, L’école Nationale Supérieure des Métiers de la Viande, and at Spain’s prestigious La Escuela de Hostelería de Leioa. He’d also run a beef farm in Massachusetts before coming back to Western New York, where he met his future wife and business partner, Caitlin.
Originally from Columbus, OH, Caitlin’s studies brought her to Buffalo to complete research related to her Ph.D. in Architecture. Today, she’s a natural fit for her role as Moriarty Meat’s chief operating officer. Caitlin loves crunching numbers, logistics, figuring out how to make things work, and improving service and processes.
The Moriartys had a vision to reconnect people to their food and foster more appreciation for all in the loop: the animals, the farmers, the processors, and the butchers.
“Our business centers on bringing in whole animals from local farms. Our beef, pork, rabbit, and lamb are all from nearby farmers within two hours of the shop,” Caitlin explains.
Going all in
“Tom was in the process of buying a former butcher shop in Buffalo around the time that we first met in 2012,” says Caitlin. “He’d gotten pretty far along when the deal fell through and although we were gutted by that experience, we were determined to move forward.” They held onto their dream for several years, during which they got married, had two children, and continued to work other jobs.
They opened their first location – a leased former butcher shop on Buffalo’s historic Grant Street – in 2018 and soon after, they knew they needed a permanent location. In 2019, they made a full-time commitment to the business and looked at several spaces, including the buildings they ultimately purchased, at 1650-1652 Elmwood.
“Initially, the owners had hoped to sell their former business along with the property, which wasn’t a good fit for us,” Caitlin explains.
Then, fortune smiled on them. The owners of 1650-1652 Elmwood, which had been the home of Vino’s Italian restaurant for many years, called.
“They decided that they were going to list the property without the business but before they did, if we were still interested, they’d listen to our offer,” says Caitlin. “In the end, it was the perfect solution, in more ways than we even realized then.”
An SBA 504 fit their live/work dream
Caitlin and Tom learned about the SBA 504 loan option through Bank on Buffalo, the commercial lending partner for their deal.
The SBA 504 enables small business owners to purchase commercial real estate and finance construction and renovations. For the Moriartys, the 504 allowed them to purchase the space that would become the butcher shop, as well as the attached former restaurant, the land, and fortunately for the couple, an apartment. In cases like theirs, the majority of the property – at least 51% — must be used for the business.
SBA 504 loans are made in partnership with banks and community-development corporations, like Pursuit. Caitlin was already familiar with Pursuit thanks to professional connections with Pursuit Vice President Sherri Falck. So, when their Bank on Buffalo representative recommended Pursuit as the funding partner, the Moriartys were ready to move forward.
To have funds in hand for the down payment (which can be as low as 10% for a 504 loan), they sold their home. The property’s apartment would become their new family home, making their commute as quick as a trip up or down the stairs.
“Honestly, having the apartment was a game-changer for our family,” admits Caitlin. “We run down to the shop at 6 AM to prep, then run back up to get the kids ready for their day, then run back down to open the shop. Living above it also means that we have this really close personal connection here, as well as a professional interest in this space.”
Pursuit Senior Vice President Mike Taylor worked closely with the Moriartys and Bank on Buffalo to bring this to fruition and they closed on the $475,000 deal in July 2019. They got to work on renovations to the butchery’s exacting standards and hired their first employee in November 2019.
In March 2020, they opened in their new location – just in time for the pandemic-related closures across New York State and the country.
Opportunities through challenges
As a food purveyor, Moriarty Meats was considered essential and was permitted to stay open throughout the pandemic. To keep their customers and staff safe, Caitlin says that they closed for three months while they pivoted to an online ordering system.
“Before the pandemic, we did everything face-to-face, in the shop. So literally, overnight, we implemented an online ordering site for customer orders. It was hectic, but we got it in place and kept improving it over time,” says Caitlin.
Despite the challenges, the business has stayed on a steady growth trajectory, too.
“The pandemic got people thinking about where their food comes from and our vision includes teaching about the full span of the process and why what we do matters,” explains Caitlin. This trend is key: whole-animal butchery is a lost art in the region (and most of America), so it’s important to Tom and Caitlin to help customers understand what they do and how they do it.
In addition to the butcher shop, their new property provided another opportunity to introduce customers to their high-quality meats. In October 2021, they opened the Café Bar next door to the butchery, in the former Vino’s restaurant. This created a need for more employees and now their growing team includes 10 talented and dedicated staff.
Their new location provides everything they hoped for, and then some, for their growing business, growing team, and expanded family, too.
Pursuit can help your business vision come true
The SBA 504 was the perfect funding option for Moriarty Meats and with more than 15 loan options available, Pursuit has something that’s great for your business, too. Contact us today and let’s see how we can help.