By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski
UMATILLA Last February, Columbia Red Apple in Umatilla scored a coup they hired Irwin Watson, butcher extraordinaire.
Watson, who has been cutting meat since he graduated from high school in Maupin in 1982, came to the Red Apple after working at Safeway for 22 years. Owner Dave Meade says Watson's reputation is just one of the reasons he and his dad Bill wanted to hire him.
"Two other factors went into it his experience as a department manager, which we had a need for at the time, and everything we had heard about him was how service-oriented and community-oriented he is," Meade said. "That absolutely ties into our philosophy."
Being a small, independent store allows Watson the freedom to pursue those relationships in the community he has always had, which allows the store to continue their idea of working with community organizations who need help.
"It is a growing part of our business," said Meade.
And Watson revels in it.
"I love my customers," he said. "People come here to shop. They are loyal customers. I can bring my personality to the store to go the extra mile."
Watson was not sure he wanted to go back to the meat-cutting business after leaving Safeway.
He had tennis elbow and carpel tunnel from his years as a meat wrapper. However, after a three-hour lunch/interview with the Meades, he thought it would be a good fit.
"I really like them," Watson said. "They are so down-to-earth. To have a Mom-n-Pop store that still continues to make it, that's big."
Working at the Red Apple gives Watson the freedom, as well, to do the things he needs to do with his family, such as take them to the doctor or attend athletic events or school functions.
"That's most important thing to me my family," Watson said.
For more information, visit the Red Apple at 1411 Sixth St., in Umatilla (look for the giant cowboy) or call 922-3001.
Or as Bill Meade says, "Need a special cut, call Irwin."