Keeping it simple.
That is how Morgan Phillips has found instant success with his butcher shop, Morgan’s A Cut Above Meat Co. in Rutledge, and he can only marvel at what has been accomplished in so little time.
“We’re doing so much business. We’re extremely blessed,” said Phillips, who opened his shop on Dec. 1 of last year. “We get a bunch of regulars.
“I try to get everybody the best meats at the best price I can give them.”
The butcher shop sells fresh beef, pork and poultry, as well as freshly-made sausage. This is a core tenet to Phillips’ business philosophy, as well as a promise to his customers.
“We cut everything. All our meat is fresh choice and is USDA-inspected,” Phillips said. “If we don’t do it, we don’t sell it. We don’t use prepackaged stuff.”
A popular item A Cut Above produces and sells are “pig burgers,” for summer grilling.
“Pigburgers are awesome. It’s just ground pork,” Phillips said. “People come from Morristown to pick up these all the time.”
Customers from throughout the Lakeway Area – and beyond – flock to A Cut Above. Phillips and butcher/mentor Gary Corum welcome customers to come to the back to watch the duo perform their art.
“We try to offer quality products. We care about the customer,” said Corum, who is also the baseball coach at Grainger County High School. “If they’re happy, then we’re happy. We appreciate everyone who comes in to buy meat from us.”
“We’ve got people who come from everywhere,” Phillips said. “We’ve got a lot of people who come here from Knoxville, Nashville and a lot of people who come up from Morristown.
“We also ship a lot of meat to people in California and Florida.”
Phillips said he has cut meat for years, and he loves doing it. He also said he is both happy and surprised with his success, but he trusted his ability and his faith.
“I cut meat for six years, and I just fell in love with it, so I went into business for myself,” he said. “I trusted in the Lord, and the good Lord blessed me.”
Phillips has been a lifelong resident of Rutledge, and he has learned to listen to the people of his hometown when it comes to what they want to buy.
“I’ve lived here my whole life. You never know what people want to buy,” he said. “We aren’t West Knoxville, where you can buy a steak for $35.
“You have to know what (customers) want and fill the needs of your clients.”
In addition to quality meats, the shop offers freshly-sliced cheese, fruits and fresh vegetables – especially the one Grainger County is world-renowned for: tomatoes.
“We sell tons of them. It’s the staple of our community,” Phillips said.
Corum has served as a partner and a mentor to Phillips in the business. Corum, who grew up in Blaine, a small town in between Rutledge and Knoxville, has been in the meat business since 1972 – and comes from a family of grocers.
“I love (cutting meat). My family was in the grocery business since the 1940s,” he said. “We just had a very small business. In 1964, we started cutting meat before we moved to (a larger store).”
Corum also said customers take the short drive from Knoxville to Rutledge for their meat because the customers know they will get quality products from people who take pride in what they’re doing.
“Knoxville makes up a lot of our business. No one cuts meat the way we do,” he said. “For everybody else, this is a job. For us, this is love.
“This is fun to us.”
Despite his success, Phillips knows his shop might be one of the last of its kind due to large grocery chains, but he is also confident in his customers knowing the products he offers.
“(Butcher shops) are slowly fading out. There’s a right way – and a wrong way – to do things,” he said. “We try to do everything the right way in a way the big chains don’t.
“It’s terrible how (the big chains) cut their meat. We offer something different.”
Phillips and Corum both said there would be no shop if it weren’t for faith as well as hard work.
“The Lord’s blessed us. We wouldn’t here if it weren’t for the Lord,” Phillips said.