Husband-and-wife-team Anthony and Sara Villegas have long had professional and personal connections to the restaurant business. Anthony was raised in Puerto Vallarta by his father and stepmother, restaurateurs who included their family in the day-to-day operation of their businesses. After moving full-time to Southern California after college, Anthony worked his way through all aspects of a restaurant –– from server to bar manager to general manager, to a wine sales rep to a purveyor of general food products, specialty foods and finally meat and seafood.
Together, Anthony and Sara share a passion for cooking and hosting, and initially ventured into the restaurant world through catering small, upscale dinner parties in customers’ homes. In 2015, through an introduction by a well-known Los Angeles-area chef, Anthony was referred to Best Beverage Catering, the company responsible for coordinating the food service portion of music festivals in the Coachella Valley (in the city of Indio). Thus, Anthony took a crew to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2015 and served sandwiches.
The profit and the energy of the festival gave Anthony and Sara a little cash and a lot of courage to create their first brick and mortar location, identifying a location on Foothill Blvd in Claremont, next door to a highly trafficked Starbucks coffee shop, to build their unusual concept: a hybrid butcher/retail shop with a full kitchen, where customers could buy the ingredients to cook at home or stay for dinner in the restaurant. They began to identify the essential components of the business, and which would be high-quality products and exceptional customer service.
They signed the lease in August 2015 and retained local architects Mark Schoeman and Laurel Tucker, as they began the process of creating the shop from top to bottom. Sara worked with all local government agencies (including the City of Claremont, the LA County Department of Public Health and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) to secure permits for the newly built space.
After a few delays, The Meat Cellar finally opened its doors in March 2016 with a small kitchen and front of the house staff, allowing Anthony and Sara to unveil their concept: a casual restaurant and retail shop with an in-house butcher counter, exclusive specialty food items and boutique wines, featuring a friendly, attentive staff. Even from its opening days, The Meat Cellar felt a warm welcome from residents of Claremont and its surrounding cities, and we quickly gained a reputation for high-quality products, within a comfortable, casual environment, at affordable prices. Within months of opening, operations were profitable, with restaurant sales the majority of revenue.
As 2016 came to a close, The Meat Cellar was lucky to include a packed dining room most nights of the week, leading Anthony and Sara to begin conversations about expansion. Early in 2017, we learned that the Wolfe family was seeking a strategic change to their business operations, and The Meat Cellar was eager to secure the space to increase seating capacity and enhance its services.
While a new location will allow us to expand our services, The Meat Cellar at Wolfe’s will maintain its original concept as a neighborhood dining room, butcher shop and store, dedicated to providing exceptional food and simplifying the process of creating quality meals at home. We have utilized a fast casual service model, but expect that The Meat Cellar at Wolfe’s will include table service. While we are hopeful that The Meat Cellar concept will expand to other cities over time, this expanded location will be our flagship location.