For the Madera family, owning Burton Meat Farm in Grand Rapids is a dream come true - and a whole lot of fun.
If you were to drive by 435 Burton St. SW, you might glance out the window and see an unassuming neighborhood grocery store.
A shop not much different than similar-looking shops nestled into neighborhoods throughout West Michigan.
But first impressions are notoriously deceiving.
The truth is that this unassuming neighborhood grocery store on Burton Street is not just any ordinary place. In fact, it would be fairly accurate to say that Burton Meat Farm is really the modern embodiment of the American Dream.
Check It Out
Burton Meat Farm is a family-owned and operated Latino specialty food store. It employs 15 people and, in just over 16 years, it has grown from a 300-square-foot meat market to a grocery store that boasts more than 3,000 square feet, with a sister restaurant slated to open any day one block to the east.
It’s not hard to see why that evolution has happened: the store has an incredibly dedicated following,
with a reputation for being one of the finest Latino butcher shops in West Michigan that features a meat case full of hand cut beef, pork, goat, and poultry.
Its shelves are fully stocked with spices and seasonings from all over Latin America.
And they feature a wide selection of fresh produce, including such Caribbean specialties as yuca, white yams, white yautia, and green plantains.
In addition to the grocery items, the business offers a variety of prepared meals available for purchase, such as rice with pigeon peas, menudo, tamales, beef fajitas, fresh guacamole, and fried pork belly (c
It has hundreds of loyal customers, many of whom are greeted by name, like family, when they walk into the store.
For those not familiar with the store, a quick glance at Burton Meat Farm’s online reviews
is a good indication of just how beloved it is: “Best market hands down!” one patron wrote. “Awesome service and wonderful staff.” Another woman deemed the shop, “la mejor de las bodegas en todo Grand Rapids.” Translation: The best of the grocery stores in all of Grand Rapids. Each review echoes these words of enthusiasm: every single thing written about the shop online is positive, which is quite a feat in a world where online negativity can seem to reign supreme.
Plus, speaking of loyalty, they have a free app for that, the Burton Meat App
, which is available for iPhone and Android devices.
Yes indeedy. There is a lot going on at 435 Burton St. SW.
The family behind Burton Meat Farm are Eduardo Madera and Rosa Madera and their adult children, Rosi Vialet and Eddy Madera.
Before Eduardo and Rosa Madera, natives of the Dominican Republic, settled in Michigan 16 years ago, Eduardo worked in a meat market in New York City for 12 years.
The Madera family.
His dream was always to own his own butcher shop, but the costs, especially in New York City, were out of reach.
“We all lived in a small studio apartment in New York City along with my dad’s butcher equipment,” recalls Rosi.
During visits to Grand Rapids to spend time with extended family, Eduardo kept his eyes open for opportunities to open his own business. At the time, he noticed there wasn’t much competition for Latino specialty markets. Equally as important, the costs of opening up a business were far less than New York, so they took a leap of faith and made the move to West Michigan to pursue his dream.
The space they found available was on Burton Street — it wasn’t perfect, but he knew he could make it work.
“When we first started, we rented the space” Eddy Madera recalls. “It was an ice cream shop. About 300 square feet. It was very small. All of the family came in and started breaking down walls to create space so we could add the meat counter and space coolers.”
Renting for the first five years, the Maderas steadily grew their business, listening to their customers. “Our business expanded” says Eduardo. “First we were a meat market then the community asked for seasonings and vegetables so we added those and just kept growing.”
Business was good enough that, after five years, the Maderas were able to purchase the store and soon made dramatic expansions in the business.
Like all successful businesses, Burton Meat Farm exists to serve its customers.
Rosi Vialet says the shop serves the local Latin American market. Families from Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean can find the products they need for their kitchens.
“They want to feel like they are back in their country when they shop,” she says. “They can buy those authentic foods and ingredients here. They come in and talk about their families with our employees. We know them by their names. We know their family. We know what they like. We make phone calls to them when something comes in they have been waiting for.”
The Burton Meat Farm experience also extends beyond its doors. They support neighborhood baseball and soccer teams. They have provided the ingredients to St. Francis Church for the last 15 years to make pupusas
(a dish crafted from thick, handmade corn tortillas filled with cheese, seasoned meat and refried beans), and they have a program to feed seniors referred to them from local churches.
Besides being successful entrepreneurs, Eduardo and Rosa’s children are also testaments to their entrepreneurial spirit.
Rosa Vialet, the oldest daughter started working in the store at a very early age.
“I started as a cashier when I was 13; I am now 25,” she says. “I transitioned into making and selling empanadas to pay off my undergrad tuition. I now I have a Master’s Degree in business administration. Working here has helped me grow professionally and personally. I am now responsible for administration and operations."
Eddy Madera, the youngest in the family, just graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in advertising. Although he is focused on a career beyond the grocery store, he is very aware of the importance of his experience at Burton Meat Farm.
“I am not as involved as others but still helping out,” he says. “I want to work for a Fortune 500 company, but working in a small family-owned business teaches you so much. You have to wear so many hats.” Most importantly, Eddy says, “I learned about hard work and dedication from parents.”
The 300-square-foot ice cream shop is now 3000-square-foot store. They added a kitchen in 2009 that prepares a variety of ready-to-eat meals for pickup and planted the seed for the next phase in their growth, a new restaurant.
Mi Casa Restaurant, at 334 Burton St. SW, is
slated to open in March. Vialet says the restaurant will feature breakfast sandwiches made with their own bread (which is made from scratch), fresh fruit shakes and authentic Dominican breakfasts: mashed green plantain with sauteed red onions, eggs, salami, and fried white cheese.
For lunch you can expect rice, beans, steaks, salmon, Dominican soup, stewed goat meat, fried rib belly, rotisserie chicken, fried green plantains (tostones), fried yuca, and
fritanga, which includes fried chicken, fried beef and fried pork.
Beyond the food, the Maderas expect to use the same ingredients that made their shop successful: quality, service and happy customers.
The Music and Recipes
Rosi Vialet was kind enough to share a couple of recipes and a playlist of favorite songs related to food and the Burton Meat Farm culture.
Rosi says music and cooking go hand-in-hand at Burton Meat Farm. “Our staff love listening to music while cooking,” she says. “We have a saying, ‘Con musica se cocina
mejor.’” In other words: with music comes better cooking.
As for the recipes, Rosi recommends whipping up the following:
Rice with Pigeon Peas
2 cups of rice
One 15-ounce Goya green pigeon peas
4 tablespoons of Burton Meat Farm homemade Spanish seasoning (Sofrito)
2 tablespoon of corn oil
1 teaspoon of Knorr chicken flavor bouillon powder
1 packet Goya culantro and coriander seasoning
2.5 cups of water
1. Rinse rice.
2. On medium heat, warm the corn oil.
3. Add the Sofrito to the hot oil; let the sofrito saute until liquid is condensed.
4. Add the pigeon peas, chicken bouillon, culantro, and coriander; let it saute.
5. Add 2.5 cups of water, and let it boil.
6. Once the water is boiling, add the rice.
7. Stir until water is absorbed at medium heat.
8. Once water is absorbed, cover pot with lid and turn heat down to low.
9. Let rice fully cook for 20 minutes.
10. Enjoy with preferred side dish.
Sancocho (Dominican Soup)
3 tablespoons of Goya Bitter
1 tablespoon of oil
1/2 lb. chicken leg quarter cut in four pieces
1/2 lb. beef shank cut in four pieces
1/2 lb. pork ribs cut in one-inch width
2 corn on the cob cut into 1 ½ inch width
1 chopped celery stick
1/2 cup of chopped culantro
2 green plantains cut in one-inch plantains
1/2 lb. white yam
1/2 lb. white yautia
1/2 lb. yuca
1/2 lb. butternut squash
3 tablespoons of Sofrito (Spanish seasoning)
6 cups of water
1. Wash the meat.
2. Season the meats with Sofrito.
3. Heat up a pot, and pour the oil.
4. Add the meat beef shank, let simmer.
5. Add the pork ribs, let simmer.
6. Add the chicken leg quarter, let simmer.
7. Add six cups of water.
8. Add the bitter orange.
9. Let the water boil.
10. Peel and slice all of the vegetables.
11. Drain all of the vegetables.
12. Add all of the vegetables (celery, corn, plantain, yuca, yautia, squash — make sure the squash is seeded, culantro).
13. Cover the pot with lid, let simmer.
14. Stir occasionally.
15. The broth will simmer and thicken slightly from the root vegetables, may add water as needed if thickened too much.
16. Add salt as needed.
17. Enjoy with side dishes: white rice and avocado.
The next time you drive by an unassuming store in a local neighborhood, instead of just glancing out your window and driving past, take a few minutes and stop in. You never know what you might find: Family, hard work, dreams, community, service, great food, and, if you are really lucky, music to dance to with newfound friends.