The kitchen inside Revival Market is bustling with activity on Tuesday morning. They've got a last minute catering job and staff are busy prepping, chopping, mixing and organizing as owners, chef Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber, keep an eye on things from the back corner. Despite the hustle, Pera and Weber seem relaxed as they ease into a conversation about the first year of their locally focused cafe, market and butcher shop which reached the milestone last month.
So you guys have started catering?
Morgan: We haven't at all, really pushed it out to the public, it just happened to take here. It's getting our feet wet. We're learning as we go. We get a lot of charcuterie catering. Ryan: It started out - let's get a platter for 12. That was the intro. "Can you do sliders?" And it's kinda grown. The better thing about catering as opposed to what else we normally sell is that we know exactly what we're selling. As opposed to buying something and putting it out, hoping that it sells. Morgan: It's something new and it's something we really want to push for box lunches with companies downtown and the Galleria, Greenway Plaza, because it's really easy for us to get out during the day. We're using the same stuff. It's all Slow Dough bread, it's all house-made meats, and cheese from Lindsey [Schechter, of the Houston Dairymaids]. All the good stuff.
Where did the idea for Revival Market start? How did you two meet?
Ryan: The first time we met was at Beaver's when Bobby [Heugel, owner of Anvil and others] was tending bar and Dax [McAnear] was there. This was a while ago, but that was our introduction. Then Morgan started his project on the farm, I was at The Grove, and then he [Morgan] began making headway with the chefs in town, so I was one of the first to try the Mangalitsa [a breed of pig] and bring it in town. Morgan: And we started bringing it in on a regular basis to The Grove. Ryan: I knew I wanted to be a business owner of some sort and as much as I loved working at The Grove, I knew my next step was coming. So I think Morgan was on the same business-oriented page as well. Morgan: At the same time this is going through, we were processing our pigs west of Austin, that processor couldn't do everything we needed to do, so we'd be taking the bellies and the hams to another processor and we were selling it at the farmers market. We were driving all over Texas every week, just to get things done the way we wanted them done. So the ultimate goal running around in my head was, "what if we were able to do this all ourselves?" For better or for worse. To make it simpler. Ryan: We started talking, and we really felt there was such a need for a good butcher shop and a good charcuterie shop, actually that was our original plan, which was much more narrow than it is now. It deviated when we wrote our first business plan (it was not even a true business plan - a spreadsheet on revenue versus cost), we took it to an accountant and it was not viable with that model. You know, we had to buy so much equipment to produce. So then we thought, "let's not abandon it" and "how can we make more revenue for the same space?" So, you know, a sandwich counter is not that much physical space, so we added in the sandwich counter. Ok, well, we have these local meats, the same customer is going to want to buy local veg, so we added a local veg piece. And I love to make charcuterie, but I've always considered myself a chef and I always will consider myself a chef, so I don't just want to work with meat, I want to work with vegetables. So processing the vegetables. I love to make things using yeast, bacteria to create so vinegars and jams and jellies, so all that just made so much sense for me, so that all got added onto the business. And, now we're a market.
Sounds like everything started out like a sprout, and then a branch grows, and then another branch grows?
Morgan: Definitely, I mean when we did, kinda expand the notion, the idea of creating a full-blown market, we didn't know what sections were going to take off. Maybe something would be better than the other. Hopefully in the end, they would all balance things out. As things proved to be successful, we've just kind of run with that idea. Ryan: [Laughing] And sometimes stumbled. Overall, it's great. Morgan: Overall it's been great. The reception of the neighborhood has been great, probably the most difficult thing we have come into contact with so far is the price: the price of the goods coming in, because we are using our meats. We're really not compromising on any of our products right now. That's somewhat ideal, that notion, as we have found out, is we have to pass that on to the customer. When you're not cheating on that, it's really hard to get your profit margin covered.
About the prices: you guys had a really positive review from Chronicle critic, Alison Cook, but one of the things she mentioned was how pricey the market items are (as do many others), what do you want people to know about how you are pricing everything?
Morgan: We were looking at our sausage. You know, Central Market's at $4.95 a pound for their sausage, which is great. Given the fact that we're using our pork and it's a very popular thing, so sausage used to be one of those things that you used to make out of the trim, out of what's leftover, but there's so much demand for sausage now that you're using nice cuts to make sausage with. Our cost on the sausage was almost $8/pound. We're selling it for $8.99/pound. So there's things like that all over the store where people think, "oh, you're charging twice what these other people are charging." Well, yeah, but the quality of the product and the ingredients? Ryan: You're paying for the no hormones, no antibiotics, you're paying for locally sourced. You know, there's not many middle men either, but each layer has its cost. These farmers, you know, they're buying the best grain and they have to charge it to us. You know, big agriculture, by volume, is able to reduce their cost and in every step of the chain, there's no volume grower. At the same time, we love the products that we sell and we feel good about it. Morgan: That's one of the things we're not really willing to compromise on. The quality of the products that go into the stuff we're making. It's kind of on our end to figure out how to make that work without compromising. Ryan: I feel like we're on the cusp now, our food culture.
How has social media helped or hurt your business?
Ryan: Well Morgan and I are both on it, and I think the direct communication is a huge benefit. Morgan: It tears down that wall between?I mean, direct access all the time. Ryan: And it's addicting. It's definitely a great way to get a message out when we're doing new things, when we're trying new things, even asking what do people think. And for issues. If somebody had something that wasn't up to our standards. Sometimes we don't know, as business owners, it definitely creates a direct link to us.
Have there been any moments when you thought, "we've made it"?
Ryan: It has not happened yet. [Laughing]. Morgan: We're still working. Ryan: Everyday is a challenge to try and get better. I wouldn't be surprised in five years if we still haven't said, "we've made it." Morgan: It's always day-to-day.