• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Longtime business Moore’s Meats and Produce closes


John Moore was a teenager when his father, Billie, opened Moore’s Meats in 1977. On Friday, March 31, the 58-year-old will close the family business at 380 Crossfield Drive for the final time. It’s been his working life since 1984, when the business was renamed Moore’s Meats and Produce and his father hired him to run the new produce shop. “Everybody in the family’s worked here at one time or another,” Moore said. “I’m the last Moore standing, I guess,” he said with a quiet laugh. Before most people had put away their Christmas trees, John Moore knew it was time to end another local tradition, and close the business his family had run for nearly 40 years. “We actually told our employees then to give them an opportunity to find something else to do, but we wanted to keep it as quiet as possible as long as we could,” Moore said. But two weeks ago, with rumors swirling around the community, Moore posted the news on the Voices of Versailles Facebook page, sparking hundreds of “likes” and comments. Some of his customers had noticed the shelves dwindling well before that. “When you visited Moore’s, you weren’t in a hurry,” said Lou Nunnelley, who’s been shopping there since the store opened. “It wasn’t like going to big box stores, where you’ve got to rush and get through. You just sort of lingered, and you heard the goings-on around town, or listened to the UK game that might be on the radio. They would always think and stop and ask you about your family and how they were doing.” Nunnelley said she’ll miss the baskets of fruit and trays of ham and biscuits and the sliced country ham she ordered around the holidays – and John Moore. “He was always so sweet to us every time we went in,” she said, adding that Billie Moore was the same sort of man. “It felt like home, going in there.” For most of his life, Sheriff Wayne “Tiny” Wright was accustomed to dropping by Moore’s for bologna he’d fry up for sandwiches, or grill-bound ribeyes and filets he’d order over the phone and pick up on his way home. “It’s that personal touch you have with the butcher, or you go in there and pick fresh produce that you know is actually – some of it was from Woodford County farms here,” Wright said. Last Thursday, he stopped by to indulge in another tradition – perhaps for the last time. “I said, ‘How many chili dogs you got?’ and he said, ‘We have two left,’ and I said, ‘Two’s all I need,’” Wright said. Moore chuckled when told about the sheriff’s comments. “It’s going to be a change. I mean, I’ve gotten used to it – I’ve known about it for three months, but yeah, it’s going to be a change in my life. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet …” Moore said. “It’s just something I’ve always done. I’ll find something else to do. I don’t know what it is yet.” A week before closing, neither did butcher Dickie Lacefield. He’s been there for 25 years – nearly as long as his friend and boss. “Somebody needs somebody cutting meat,” Lacefield said with a smile. “Part of you is dying, but you’re kind of to a point now where you’re just ready to move on a little bit, when you know it’s hitting. But yeah, it’s tough. I mean, I’m like family, so …” “He’s been like a brother to us,” said Moore, one of eight children. “Dickie’s more than a butcher. He’s run the meat shop since my dad passed away.” Moore said he believed the family business might not have begun had his older brother, Charlie, not died in an auto accident in 1976, while Billie Moore was traveling for his job with A & P. After that, Billie didn’t want to be away from his family anymore, and shortly before Christmas the next year, he opened Moore’s Meats. Moore’s Meats wasn’t the typical butcher shop. Part of the business involved processing deer and livestock, which presented new opportunities, but eventually, a tough decision for the Moore siblings. Moore said federal and state health inspectors told the family that when ownership changed, they’d have to upgrade their facilities. That clock began ticking last July 3, when Moore’s mother, Joyce, died – 16 years to the day after Billie Moore passed away. “What we’ve always done over the years is we’d get all our retail done in the morning, we’d sanitize the room and then we start doing our custom work. They didn’t like that anymore,” Moore said of state and federal U.S. Agriculture Department inspectors. Moore said the needed renovations of the meat shop would have cost at least $25,000, but he expected the actual price to be much higher. With the business in decline, they couldn’t justify the cost. “The family just decided it wasn’t what they wanted to do, and honestly, the business doesn’t do as well as it used to. The big Kroger around the corner and our location isn’t the best in the world, but we’ve always managed,” said Moore. “You can’t make it on seeing people two or three times a year. And we’ve got great customers that come every week, every two weeks. I just don’t have enough of them to make it. “The whole family really wants to say this: It’s been a big part of all our lives, even though they’re not involved in it anymore, but it is sad to us and we hate it that it had to end, but everything must end eventually, I guess. We had a pretty good run,” Moore said. “I’ve got good help in there, but I think they’re ready to move on, too. It is sad, but we’ve had a great outpouring from the community.” He paused to greet a long-time customer as she got into her car. “Bye, Barbara,” he said. After the woman drove away, Moore added, “She’s one of the best customers I’ve got. I don’t think she’s heard yet, and I didn’t want her to find out this way.”

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