STEPHENS CITY — This year is shaping up to be a big one for a family owned and operated business that opened 57 years ago.
In January, Gore’s Fresh Meats won the Greater Good Small Business Award from the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber in recognition of the company’s considerable community service.
Later this spring, Gore’s Fresh Meats will move its retail space from its longtime location at the intersection of Fairfax Pike (Va. 277) and Double Church Road (Route 641) — known to locals as CB’s Corner — to 201 Centre Drive, less than a mile east off Fairfax Pike. The new location is behind Miller’s Ace Hardware and Walgreens pharmacy.
Loyal Gore’s customers arrive well in advance of its 10 a.m. opening six days a week. During the Christmas season and around Mother’s Day, the line of customers goes out the door.
“There is no other place for meat. You can smell the difference when you’re cooking it,” said regular customer and Winchester resident Linda Nicholson, who said the prices are “about the same as the grocery store.”
Gore’s butchers and processes beef, pork and lamb.
Keighley Gore said the upcoming move is necessary not only because Gore’s Fresh Meats needs a larger retail store, but also because Fairfax Pike is going to be widened into a four-lane road from Exit 307 on Interstate 81 east to Double Church Road.
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, 52 properties are affected by the road widening, including Gore’s Fresh Meats. Construction will likely start in 2020.
The Fairfax Pike landscape through Stephens City is rapidly changing, but Gore’s Fresh Meats remains true to its founder’s vision.
Frederick B. Gore and his son Fred opened Gore’s Meat Processing at their Double Church Road farm — two miles south of Fairfax Pike — in 1961, when many rural residents were slaughtering their own animals without the means to properly refrigerate large carcasses. Gore’s Meat Processing has a safe, clean and efficient slaughterhouse with appropriate storage.
Then, as now, meat processing is back-breaking, intense work.
The plant on Double Church Road is still in operation, and today the company is managed by Fred Gore’s sons Jeff and Joe, who employ their grown children, too.
“This is all I’ve ever done since I was a kid,” said Joe Gore. “When Dad got sick, I was 16 and Jeff was 19.”
Gore said the business has grown bigger than he ever imagined.
Of the 35 employees at three locations, eight are part of the Gore family, carrying Frederick B. Gore’s vision into the 21st century.
In addition to the six employees at the retail store on Fairfax Pike and 10 employees at the processing facility on the farm, another 19 employees work at the Gore’s Foltz Plant near Edinburg in Shenandoah County.
The Gores purchased the former Foltz abattoir in 1990. The Gore’s Foltz Plant is a USDA-inspected wholesale and retail operation.
As a USDA-inspected facility, meat inspectors are on site every day ensuring the health of the animals and the cleanliness of all facilities, including the livestock pens where animals are kept.
The inspectors are there every day to make sure the animals are calm and humanely slaughtered. A few times each year, teams of federal inspectors arrive for major inspections.
“We have an open-door policy, and we’re happy to arrange tours,” said Keighley Gore. “We regularly give tours to 4-H and school groups. We want people to understand what we do and see where their food comes from.”
She added, “When you see where any of your food comes from, and how hard farmers work to produce it, you tend to be less wasteful and more respectful.”
According to Keighley Gore, the Edinburg Foltz Plant produces roughly 5,000 pounds of whole-hog country sausage each week for the company’s wholesale and retail operations.
Gore’s Fresh Meats weekly produces about 240 pans, or 1,400 pounds, of another Shenandoah Valley favorite, pon hoss, which is also known as pon haus, pannhaas or scrapple.
Depending on the season, about 130 head of beef cattle, hogs and sheep go through the Edinburg and Stephens City facilities each week.
Gore’s sausage, ground beef, scrapple and Kunzler bacon is sold to restaurants, large grocery chains and other retail stores.
Keighley Gore, who married Jeff Gore’s son Levi, attributes the success of the company to its focus on family, tradition and quality.
“We offer what no one else in the Shenandoah Valley does,” she said. “Someone can ask for something — sweetbreads, 200 pounds of sausage or 50 fillets — and we can have it ready the next day. We’ve got all the cogs working together.”
She said Gore’s also provides peace of mind.
“Farmers want to know they are getting back all the meat from each animal. We leave nothing on the bone and keep none of the meat,” she said.
Gore’s can also connect customers with whatever type of locally grown meat they want, including grass-fed, grain-fed, organically grown and non-GMO, “and pretty much any breed of four-legged animal raised for meat.”
For years, Gore’s has collected donations for community causes. It provides products for groups such as FFA to sell as fundraising projects, as well as thousands of pounds of sausage to organizations that host pancake breakfast fundraisers.
Each April, Gore’s donates burgers, hot dogs and a grill for the Virginia Tech alumni who gather on the anniversary of the April 16, 2007, mass shooting.
In the spring, Gore’s participates in the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Grand Feature parade and the Newtown Heritage Festival parade.
Gore’s has for decades supported 4-H and FFA members by buying their livestock at at least 11 county fairs. The Frederick County 4-H and FFA Carcass Contest is held after the fair at Gore’s Stephens City plant, where students participate in the judging.
And Gore’s partners with the American Red Cross each August to host a “Beef Up the Blood Supply” blood drive.
Gore’s helps Hunters for the Hungry process deer each November at its USDA-inspected facility before Gore’s sends the meat to food pantries and to those who are food insecure.
In 2017, Gore’s donated more than $60,000 in meat and cash to local nonprofit organizations and public organizations.
According to a January report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average consumer will eat 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry this year, surpassing a record set in 2004. The USDA also expects domestic production of meat will surpass 100 billion pounds for the first time.
The report suggests more Americans are saying no to carbohydrates in favor of protein from meat, eggs and dairy.
“There’s so much more we want to do, especially with technology,” Keighley Gore said. “We want to add online ordering and may tackle that over the summer.”
Keighley Gore has a background in agriculture, but never imagined she’d find a career in meat processing. Marrying into the Gore family, she’s learned, “It’s fascinating. The more I learn, the more interesting it becomes.”
After decades, Joe Gore is equally passionate about the business and his customers. Smiling, he said, “I hope the customers who have been coming to this shop will follow us to the new location.”
— Contact Cathy Kuehner at email@example.com
Gore’s Fresh Meats at 383 Fairfax Pike, near Stephens City, will soon move to 201 Centre Drive, Suite 106. The company’s Stephens City plant is located at 1426 Double Church Road. Its Gore’s Foltz Plant is located at 12526 S. Middle Road near Edinburg.