Serving generations of meat-lovers
In just under a month many Americans will find themselves decked out in their best patriotic attire, shooting off fireworks in friends’ and families’ backyards or celebrating their independence on the back of a party barge on one of the area lakes. Regardless of where the Fourth of July celebration takes place, there is one staple, other than beer, that will probably be found at most get-togethers: meat.
Americans consume a lot of meat, and Weldon’s Meat Market, located at 3911 Central Ave., has been serving up fresh-cut steaks, fish and deli meats of all kinds to the people of Hot Springs and surrounding areas since the 1980s.
Tom and Charla Starnes took ownership of Weldon’s in 1999 after the original owners, Weldon and Marye Adcock, retired from the business.
Charla Starnes said her husband had worked at Weldon’s for 14-15 years before the couple made the decision to purchase the business.
“(Tom) loved working there, and Weldon was retiring, and Weldon is like a father to both of us,” she said. “We’re still very close to him. In fact, we just saw him a couple weeks ago.”
She said that Weldon is enjoying his retirement by traveling and being involved in his church.
After having ownership of the business for almost 20 years, Charla Starnes said that the industry has changed in that meat markets like theirs are somewhat of a rarity in the United States these days.
“I just got back from a trip to England with my sister-in-law, and in England and Ireland (meat markets) are literally on every corner, but not here,” she said. “Ours is very old-fashioned; we cut everything to order, buy the best quality you can, and we’re all about customer service and quality. You don’t find it anymore, unfortunately.”
The quality of both the customer service and the products offered at Weldon’s is evident upon entering the front doors of the business, as customers are greeted at the door by a smiling employee and shiny cases packed full of meats and other products are on display.
Charla Starnes said their customers are “hands down” the best part of what they do.
“We have generations that come in to see us,” she said. “In fact, our dentist, his mom has shopped here since day one. I’ve gotten to see a lot of them grow up, Tom even more so. We literally see generation after generation and that is the best part. We have the sweetest, kindest customers and we get to know them.”
Charla Starnes said that, in addition to their Arkansas customers who come from across the state, Weldon’s also has a large customer base in Dallas, Texas.
“They come into the store, but we also ship all over. We’ve literally shipped all over the world,” she said, adding that almost all of their products can be shipped, but steaks and beef jerky are the more popular items to have shipped.
“We have a big Little Rock base, but a lot of people from Dallas come to Hot Springs, too. They tell us they don’t have meat markets there. I think part of why they like coming here, too, is because it’s very small, it’s very customer-based. It’s small enough that everybody gets to know everybody, and you just don’t find that in the big places anymore.”
In addition to cut-to-order meats, Weldon’s also offers a variety of prepared casseroles, desserts and a large line of gourmet food items. Fresh seafood is delivered weekly on Thursdays and Weldon’s carries an even bigger line of frozen seafood. Charla Starnes said Weldon’s is known mainly for its filet mignon.
Hams, turkeys and full meals are also available for the bigger holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Weldon’s boasts a full-service kitchen in which everything is prepared and, if needed, cooked from scratch.
Charla Starnes said that last Christmas was the first Christmas the couple had spent with their own families in 30 years.
“There’s a lot of sacrifices made with your holidays when you own a business,” she said. “I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong, but there are a lot of sacrifices.”
Though retirement is not in their near future, she said the couple is looking forward to a time in their lives when they are able to do more traveling than their business currently allows them to do.
“We love to travel — it’s kind of a joke, and this is how well our customers know us, they know where we go in September, they know where we go in January, and we always switch it up in July,” she said, adding that Mexico and Florida are among their favorite destinations.
Charla Starnes offered this advice for future business owners: “You will put in a lot of hours and you will make a lot of sacrifices. You will give up a lot of your free time, especially the first several years. We didn’t take vacation for several years when we first got (Weldon’s). You feel like you have to take care of that baby, and you do. When you first start out, it’s financially tougher. We’ve just been so fortunate because we have sweet people, we have great employees, we have sweet customers, so that does make it easier. It’s a lot more sacrifice than you could ever imagine, you will give up a lot of your free time and holidays to be successful, but it’s worth it.”