Aaron Cohn grew up working in his father's grocery store in Sioux City, Iowa.
In the 1980s Cohn and his three siblings left their heartland home and reunited in San Diego to open Iowa Meat Farms, a mom-and-pop-style butcher shop located off Mission Gorge Road.
Today, Cohn's butcher shop dynasty consists of Iowa Meat Farms and a sister location, Siesel's Old Fashioned Meats. The entire Cohn family will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Iowa Meat Farms on Sept. 30.
Q: What has changed about the way people order meat or what they order in the last 30 years?
A: Initially, Iowa Meat Farms was oriented toward bulk sales for people stocking their freezers. Now, that's a small part of the business. Customers prefer fresh, and shop accordingly.
Q: Why did you pick this business?
A: We were raised in the grocery business in Sioux City. We were used to high-quality Midwestern meats, and couldn't find them here in San Diego. That was our mission in opening IMF.
Q: What are some services you offer that people might not know about?
A: We are a full-service meat shop. There are a lot of people out there who don't even know what that means. Basically, if it has anything to do with meat, we either have it or we will find it for you. We offer custom-cutting, advice on proper cooking, and verification of recipes.
Q: How important is buying local to your business?
A: In specialty foods, we seek out and feature all the local products we can get our hands on. When it comes to meat, unfortunately, there is nothing available locally on a commercial basis. Even though there is wonderful beef, pork and lamb raised right here in the county, there are no processing facilities. Some attempts have been made to bring in a portable facility, but they have not been successful. If and when that happens, we will be the first in line.
Q: Do you notice any rise or fall in consumer's interest in highly skilled butchers?
A: With the advent of the Food Network and others, there has been renewed interest in cooking and good food. The steady growth of our business reflects that. The more sophisticated the customer becomes in their culinary adventures, the more they are likely to need our services. We see that every day.
Q: In an era where massive chain grocery stores saturate the market, what would you say sets your business apart to keep customers coming back for more? What's your secret?
A: It's not much of a secret. Our product is far superior. In addition, we offer service and highly experienced personnel. Large chains simply don’t have the knowledge or ability to do what we do or offer what we offer.
Q: Regarding the recent pink slime scandal and the increase in beef pricing across, how has this affected your business this year?
A: We love the scandals! We don't cut corners in quality, and that includes our ground beef. We grind all of it ourselves, and that brought in a lot of new customers. As far as the prices go, we issued a statement to our customers early in the year so that they knew what to expect. Initially, when prices go up, we will see a bit of a slowdown. Within a few weeks, it’s right back up. With another drought this year, we are going to see even higher prices. We don’t like that at all. The less expensive our product is, the more of it we can sell, and the more people we can make happy.
Q: Despite the fact that you and your siblings have moved on individually to cover the culinary map all across San Diego with restaurants, grocery stores, etc., how does Iowa Meat Farms keep all four of you connected and rooted in the family business together?
A: Iowa Meat Farms was the first joint family venture that all four of us opened up together when we moved out to San Diego. Now 30 years later, we all have gone on to launch new and exciting businesses but Iowa Meat Farms will always remain near and dear to our hearts, keeping us grounded as a reminder of our roots and our father's business
Does your office love Sprinkles Cupcakes? Ever need that sweet pick-me-up at your desk in the afternoon?
Now through Oct. 1, post a creative Sprinkles-themed photo of you and your coworkers to each Sprinkles store's individual Facebook page to be entered to win a cupcake delivery for your office (up to 50 cupcakes).
Also, from 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21 at the La Jolla Sprinkles Cupcakes location, Tony Hawk will be on location to help support the Tony Hawk Foundation, which focuses on the creation of public skateboard parks in low-income communities. Candace Nelson, Sprinkles founder and judge of Food Network's Cupcake Wars, will join forces with Hawk and 100 percent of that weekend's sales of Tony's favorite cupcake -- the cinnamon sugar -- from all 10 Sprinkles stores will be donated to the Tony Hawk Foundation.