Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Co. has a new owner. Chris O’Blenness, who was born and raised in Hog Island, bought the business from Dan Marino a few weeks ago. O’Blenness most recently ran the livestock program for Stone Barns in New York.
Some may know this valley native as one of the owners of the old Southside Pizza, a farm to table pizza restaurant he started after working for Cosmic Apple Gardens. After shutting the restaurant’s doors, O’Blenness wanted a fresh start and moved to New York to attend culinary school in 2010. Someone at school told him he should lookup Dan Barber, Blue Hill and Stone Barns. “I knew immediately that is what I wanted to do,” O’Blenness said.
Since there were no positions open at the farm, he volunteered every chance he could, making the trek to Westchester and learning how to raise livestock. He even slept in a sleeping bag in the farm’s pig huts so he was there first thing in the morning for work. That dedication paid off, and O’Blenness was finally offered a part time job. By the time he left New York in August, he was running the livestock department for Stone Barns. (He wasn’t a total newcomer to livestock. O’Blenness grew up around cows, and one of his earliest memories was getting baby chicks from the feed store with his grandfather.)
At some point, though, he realized that he couldn’t stay in that position forever, so he began looking for opportunities back in Jackson. A friend told him about Buffalo Meat Co., and after months of back and forth the sale went through a few weeks ago.
O’Blenness has already started to change things up. He has put all the inventory in the front of the store (non-food items) on sale for 50 percent off to clear it out. He will also be putting his food items on sale in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. Over the next few months, he expects to change his branding and aesthetics and revamp the front of the store. While elk and buffalo meat will remain the core of his business, O’Blenness sees himself carrying some of Barber’s ethos back here and using the shop to celebrate local food production. “I want to focus on real food that comes from this place,” he said. “I want a truly authentic market of local products.”
Think: cookbooks, cast iron pans and knives. “I want this to look like a food museum or a food art gallery,” he said.