Business Reader Contributed

Avon Prime Meats Grows & Thrives

The staff of Avon Prime Meats – which includes West Hartford native Matt Tofil as its chef, and many other West Hartford residents and supplies – is committed to customer service as key to success.

West Hartford native Matt Tofil is chef and handles the purchasing at Avon Prime Meats. Courtesy photo


In the eight years since Avon Prime Meats has run its butcher shop, deli and grocery store, it has grown and thrived despite a shift toward meatless Mondays.

The butcher and specialty grocer has expanded its line of locally sourced produce, cheese, milk, ice cream, eggs, meat, fish, baked goods, and more so that it now carries products from 30 Connecticut businesses. The store sells an assortment of premium-grade meats, striving, where possible, to select from farms that raise grass-fed animals and harvest their animals humanely and ethically. Despite its name, the store sells so much more than prime meats – poultry, vegetarian dishes, gluten-free foods, seasonings, sauces, soups, desserts, snacks, local breads, deli meats and sandwiches, New England beers, and even teas, coffee and dog treats.

Six years ago, the business diversified to offer catering and pre-made family meals cooked from scratch under the leadership of chefs Tom Stuteville and Matthew Tofil. Stuteville, of Bloomfield, previously worked in the kitchens at Chart House and Pettibone Tavern in Simsbury.

Stuteville met executive chef and butcher Matthew Tofil at Pettibones, where Tofil worked as head chef. Tofil works in the butcher shop and grocery store in Avon, where he handles in-store purchasing and catering.

“It’s a wine shop for meat,” says Tofil, a Granby resident and West Hartford native. “Depending on your mood or company, that drives the type of meat or food you will receive.”

Responding to consumer demand for healthy, prepared family meals, they sell international, Italian, BBQ, salads, slaws and side dishes, as well as vegetarian, vegan and paleo-friendly dishes. The paleo menu offers foods such as turkey ricotta meatballs, slow-roasted wild mushrooms, butternut squash stuffed with grass-fed beef and zucchini salad. Vegan options include lentil mushroom walnut balls, eggplant involtini with ratatouille and wheat berry salad.

Anticipating trends, the business has grown. The store opened with four managers and about 25 hourly employees. Today, between the Avon store and the kitchens in East Hartford where all the catered and prepared family food is cooked from scratch, Avon Prime Meats employs seven managers and about 40 hourly employees, depending upon the season.

One signature staple of the business since it opened is its customer service. When a customer told nutritionist Ellen Bellicchi that he wished they sold cranberries, she told him they would have them for him the next time he came in, even though they don’t carry them. She ordered cranberries and stocks them for this customer. Once, when a customer arrived at the store with a sleeping baby in her car, a staff member completed the customer’s grocery list and brought her food out to her so the mother wouldn’t have to wake her baby.

Another time, a catering customer arrived on a Saturday to pick up her order for the party she was hosting that day.  Even though the customer had accidentally ordered the food for a Sunday pickup, the staff pulled together to fill her order in half an hour – in time for her guests.

Many busy customers stop by on the way home from the office or after their kids’ practice, knowing they can be in and out in less than 10 minutes with everything they need for their dinner.

The experienced and trained staff can answer questions about how to cook any kind of meat or fish and sends guests home with written instructions. Since opening the store, the husband-and-wife owners, Rich and Janice Gallivan, have employed a nutritionist to help customers make healthy choices to accommodate those with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance and more.

Another secret to their success is the longevity of their staff and their commitment to making each customer leave happy, whether they’re regulars or first-time customers, says Avon resident Rocio Olivares, general manager.

“It has become my second family. The owners are very compassionate. When they come to the store, the first thing they do is talk to everybody and ask questions about how you’re doing in your life, not just work,” says Olivares, who began as the part-time marketing manager in 2012. The following year, she became a full-time manager and her duties expanded to capitalize on her capabilities.

For every 10 people interviewed for a job at Avon Prime Meats, only one is hired, says Janice Gallivan. In its eight years in business, just one of its managers has left.

The owners treat their staff as if they’re family, and in turn, the staff treats its guests and local suppliers – which include West Hartford businesses Hartford Baking Company and the Naked Baking Ladies – like friends, even those stopping by the store for the first time, Olivares says.

“That’s what I tell the staff whenever I’m training them,” she says. “When we support a local business in the community we become a part of the family’s story.”

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