By ERIKA TOWNE, Contributor —
“It’s not just a normal steak shop.” It’s something the owners and managers of Timberline Meat Company in Sandy hear a lot. On the outside, the building looks like a lot of the other businesses located on Proctor Avenue. But inside, there’s something for just about everyone.
“The specialty of cuts are delicious,” said Bryce Finnman, a long-time customer of Timberline Meat Company. “They’ve expanded so what was just thought of as a meat shop is so much more. Ben does a lot of prepping of food, so families, moms, parents coming home at night want to have something decent, that’s healthy.”
Timberline Meat Company opened up just over three years ago, in July, 2017, but it’s something childhood friends Bob Nippert and Dale Rasmussen had wanted to do for years.
The pair met in kindergarten in Sandy. While they followed different paths as adults, they stayed local and stayed close. Eventually, they ended up working together. Nippert as the owner of U.S. Meat and Restaurant Supply and Rasmussen as the general manager.
“We’d always talked about a meat store and ‘Yeah, wouldn’t that be fun someday and stuff?’,” said Rasmussen. “So, I was doing my U.S. Meat thing and things started falling into place. He finally said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And we did.”
They quickly came up with a name and Timberline Meat was born. “I don’t know if this is how the name came about, but in my mind, it is,” said Rasmussen. “My dad, a long time ago, had a company in Sandy, Oregon called Timberline Electric and I just said one day, ‘Why don’t we call it Timberline Meat?’ And he said, ‘I like it.’ That’s how it came about.”
Timberline Meat Company Opens
When it came to running the place, Rasmussen had the perfect man in mind. Ben Kolibaba worked as a sous chef at the Resort at the Mountain at the same time Rasmussen worked as an executive chef there. Even though it was more than 10 years prior, Rasmussen knew Kolibaba was a perfect fit for the job.
“I understood food really well and that’s why I brought Ben in with us too because he understands food really well,” said Rasmussen. “He’s more of a creative guy and I can kind of figure out how to get what he needs done.”
Kolibaba was happy to jump in and the two worked together to create a company that showcases some of the best the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Not Your Normal Steak Shop
“We wanted to be a meat market, but we wanted to do it a little differently than other people do. Make things easy for people,” said Rasmussen. “They can be able to come in. Pick something out that has really good ingredients in it. Take it home; apply a little heat to it, and they look like a rock star.”
As the store manager, Kolibaba uses his culinary skills to create those rock stars.
“He has something always made up,” said Finnman. “If it’s a chicken dish, if it’s rotisserie, if it’s anything. He’s done some steaks that are stuffed, those types of things. So, it makes it a nice quick meal to come home at night and have a good menu.”
But Finnman says the thing he loves about the Timberline Meat Company is the extras.
“The different spices, the different rubs, all the high-end stuff like sea salts. All those little things, it’s what I like,” said Finnman. “I call it the finer things.”
“We carry tons of locally produced condiments and sides. We buy our sides like twice baked potatoes, potato salad, half salad from Major’s Potatoes and that’s just in Milwaukie,” said Kolibaba. We have numerous items on the shelves from the Northwest – Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho.”
Timberline Meat Company tries to source everything it can from the Pacific Northwest and that’s not just its sides. The beef comes from the Double R Ranch in Washington. The pork is produced at Hill Meat in eastern Oregon and its chicken is from Mary’s Chicken in northern California.
“We just like what the Northwest has to offer and we want to showcase it,” said Rasmussen.
In some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic was a blessing in disguise for Timberline Meat Company.
“Our business went crazy,” said Kolibaba. “Our business quadrupled, literally quadrupled. It was hard to keep up is what it was.”
“It was huge. It was absolutely crazy. I think it’s because we’re small; we’re local,” said Rasmussen.
The sudden rush on food staples pushed new customers to Timberline Meat Company and forced the company’s managers to streamline the ordering process.
“We were already in the process of trying to start an online e-commerce for our store and so we put that on the fast-track and got it done,” said Kolibaba.
He says, the company’s ability to adapt quickly to meet customer needs immediately paid off.
“We were able to provide easier curbside service for our customers,” said Kolibaba. “We’re doing free home delivery; we expanded our delivery. Just trying to accommodate COVID and people’s concerns with being out in public.”
Both men believe that it was their approach to the pandemic that helped get Timberline Meat Company through it.
“At some point, you just have to accept it, go with it, and make the best of it,” said Kolibaba. “That’s what we did with our online stuff. We’re not trying to fight it. We’re going to try to find the easiest way to make everything work, keep people safe and still provide our product to people.”
“You got to keep a really positive attitude,” said Rasmussen. “Things are going to change daily and you have to roll with the punches. You try to prepare yourself as much as you can, but it doesn’t work all the time. It’s basically just taking one day at a time, be thankful for that day and move on.”
Building a Lasting Brand
Those customers have stuck around even after the initial panic when the pandemic started.
“We definitely have some clientele on our commerce site now, which is awesome,” said Kolibaba. “We have lots of repeat customers online.”
Lyle Drucker is the general manager of U.S. Metal Works, the parent company to Timberline Meat Company. He works closely with Kolibaba and Rasmussen and says the true benefit of Timberline Meat Company is its ability to win over customers with its consistent quality.
“When you go into a specialty meat market, especially Timberline Meat, you’re going to get a piece of meat that you’re going to enjoy every single time, we guarantee it,” said Drucker. “There’s no guesswork here. What you get is really good, good product.”
Timberline Offers Plenty More
Now that the initial rush from COVID-19 has run down and Timberline Meat Company is starting to look toward the future. The company is now looking at expanding its customer base.
“Sandy, Oregon’s our flagship store, but we see a need for what we’re doing in other communities a little farther away from us,” said Rasmussen. “That’s really what we’re looking at doing is kind of bringing what we have to another location.”
As for Kolibaba, right now he’s focused on making it the best experience possible for his current customers.
“We’re trying to get the word out to East County basically that we’re doing at-home delivery and you don’t have to go out and about, we’ll bring it to you. Especially the older generation; keep them safe,” said Kolibaba.
The current customers appreciate the work and effort Kolibaba and the rest of the team put into the product.
“It’s just fun people [that] really take care of the customer,” said Drucker. “We get a lot of compliments on our service and our people up there. It’s one of those things that you really take pride in, the fact that you provide that service and that we continue to improve it.” HVN