Old Town Lewisville has seen changes from building demolitions to restaurant openings, but one thing has remained constant in the downtown area since 1977: patrons can buy high-quality, additive-free meat products cut to their liking. And now they can buy it from the “Best Butcher” in DFW, as deemed by the Texas Beef Council in March.
May 10 marks the 40th anniversary of Old Town Market, a local butcher shop that has been family-owned since it first opened at 301 S. Mill Street.
The market is run today by Shawn Knowles, who has been with the business since his late father, Bob Knowles, and Dickie Grant opened the doors.
“For a business to make 40 years, that’s a special thing to be able to do,” Knowles, 54, said. “I would just like for all the people to know we greatly appreciate all the years that they’ve been with us and I look forward to many more years.”
Butcher Bryce McWhorter, 23, said the market still butchers meat the the old-fashioned way, what he calls the right way, to the customers customization and without preservatives.
“[The market] is one thing that keeps Lewisville the way it’s always been,” McWhorter said. “We really keep the Old Town tradition alive with something that the old timers passed down to their kids. I know we’ve had generations coming in here.”
McWhorter once wanted to be a surgeon but now finds he wants to make a career out of cutting meat. About five years ago, McWhorter walked in for a hot sandwich and walked out with a job behind Old Town Market’s counter. Now Knowles is grooming him to take over when he is out of town.
“It’s just really a staple in the community. Hopefully we can keep it that way while the community changes,” he said.
The shop has changed in some ways over the years — the health department won’t let the shop have sawdust on the ground to catch grease drippings, and the butchers can’t process deer meat that hunters bring in anymore — but Knowles is intent on keeping the original values alive.
“We buy the higher quality of choice [meat],” he said. “The animals are well taken care of. They’re not having additives put in them or anything like that… It’s just a higher standard we hold ourselves to and hold our suppliers to.”
Knowles’ main focus is on the customers. He gets started each day as early as 6 or 7 a.m. in order to have his perishable products cut and prepared for the day.
“You have to start early enough to where when you get busy, you have enough time to wait on the customers, because they’re your number one point,” he said. “You don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business, so you have to have access to those customers.”
Knowles said these values were instilled in him by his father and Grant when he started working at the shop in the eighth grade, sweeping up after school. Knowles learned how to cut meat a few years later. The two former partners ran the market until 1989. Grant then bought Bob Knowles out. When Grant wanted to retire in 2009, Shawn Knowles bought the market.
“If anybody else had gotten a hold of this market, it probably wouldn’t be here today,” Knowles said. “I haven’t changed the integrity of it. It stays exactly as they started.”
Knowles said those who come into the butcher shop can get the meat cut however they like if they don’t see what they’re looking for in the counter.
“One of the biggest differences between your grocery stores and what we do… you buy what they cut, how they cut it and how they packed it,” Knowles said. “You walk in here needing a ribeye that’s two-inches thick, I’m going to cut you one two-inches thick, regardless if you want one or if you want 100 of them.”
Knowles owns the business with his wife, Sharon, who does the bookkeeping and typically works behind the counter on Saturdays and throughout the month of May.
“It’s been Shawn’s dream, always his dream [to own the shop]. When it came up, I said, ‘Go for it. If that’s your dream, go for it,’ and he did. And he’s done great,” she said. “I just wish Bob could see it. Dickie sees it. Dickie’s proud. I wish Bob could see it too.”
The meat market’s counter is stocked with fresh choice beef, pork and chicken. The shop sells Amish Country Roll Butter, hog’s head cheese and various seasonings and rubs.
Customer Charles Simpson, 39, of Flower Mound brought his mother, Charlotte, who recently moved to the area, into the market for lunch.
“Really it’s a testament to what these guys offer to a customer,” Simpson said over his brisket sandwich. “A lot of these family–owned businesses, unfortunately they’re kind of going away today and they’re being gobbled up by big box stores.”
Simpson started coming to Old Town Market about nine years ago to get his deer meat processed, which the shop was the best at doing, he said. Now that the market is no longer able to process the deer meat, he swings by to purchase thick-cut bacon, steak products, butter and lunch.
“It really comes down to the quality, the cut, the taste — I would have to say, ‘You have to come try this place,’” he said in regards to those who have never been to Old Town Market.
Charlotte Simpson, 68, said she was impressed by the stock and the friendliness of the employees.
“Amazingly the prices are comparable when you look at the price per pound,” she said. “The bacon for example, it’s very competitive — matter of fact, even better than a lot of the prices at the grocery stores.”
The market serves hot lunch specials and sandwiches daily, except on weekends during the month of May, when it has its annual anniversary sale. Former head meat-cutter Shane “Bones” Lewis, 50, said the shop sold about 25,000 filets in May of 2016.
During this year’s sale, boneless skinless chicken breasts are $2.99 a pound, baby back pork ribs are $3.99 a pound, jumbo all-beef hot dogs are $3.99 a pound, boneless butterfly pork chops are $3.99 a pound and 8-ounce bacon-wrapped steak filets are $5.99 each.
Customers get a free baking potato with each steak purchase. Every customer will receive a raffle ticket for the chance to win a Green Egg grill, $200 in meat or $100 in meat.
Old Town Market is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. On Saturday, May 20, the market will be serving free hot dogs and cold drinks.