If you’ve stopped by Ray’s Quality Meats in Ormond Beach recently to pick up a few steaks, some baby back ribs or maybe a deli sub and a homemade salad, you probably haven’t noticed anything different.
Unless you were looking for owner Mark Anderson, who was not behind the meat counter conversing with his customers.
Mr. Anderson, who practically grew up in the butcher shop and deli, sold the business in February.
“It was just time,” he said.
He was 11 years old when his father, Ray, began the business 50 years ago in January 1971.
“I’ve been doing it all my life,” Mr. Anderson said. “It’s really the only thing I’ve done my whole life. It’s time to do something else.”
He sold Ray’s to Felix Vanegas, who also owns two quick-service Nicaraguan-food restaurants in South Florida.
Mr. Vanegas retained the entire staff at Ray’s, including Meat Cutter Bill Sablack, who has been promoted to manager. He also added General Manager Thomas Solazzo.
“Mark had such a good setup I didn’t want to change anything,” Mr. Vanegas said. “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”
He said he fell in love with Ormond Beach when he drove his son there for a Little League baseball tournament.
“We just enjoyed the small-town feel, the laid-back atmosphere,” Mr. Vanegas said. “A little more than a year ago we started looking to move to this area. I came and met Mark. I liked what he had here. I felt like it was a good fit.”
That small-town feel permeates Ray’s Quality Meats on North U.S. 1. Mark and his wife Marcy built relationships with their customers, some of whom have been buying their beef and chicken, and homemade sausages at Ray’s for decades.
“I built up quite a clientele,” Mr. Anderson said. “That was the hardest part about leaving. Some became friends outside the store.”
He started out as a bag boy. As a teenager he worked full-time during the summers. After graduating from Seabreeze High School in 1977, he worked side by side with his father. After five or six years, Ray gave Mark the reins.
“I had an opportunity to go to college, but after working with (my dad), I got a taste for it. I did love it,” he said.
But the grind of running a small business, working 70-hour weeks, month after month, year after year, finally wore him down.
Mr. Anderson’s son, a property appraiser, decided not to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps.
“I think the younger generation is not looking for that, the hours it takes to run an independent operation,” Mr. Anderson said.
Yet he knew the store needed a new approach and new energy.
“(Mr. Vanegas) is a younger man. He has a lot of ideas to continue building the store,” Mr. Anderson said. “He has some ideas to build upon what I built.”
Mr. Sablack said they plan to expand the prepared food side, offering more hot-meal selections and doing a little more with the deli.
“But we’re going to maintain the same culture that Mark spent his life cultivating – very personable customer service, one-on-one interaction,” he said. “You know you’re going to get a good cut of meat here.”
Mr. Sablack has been working at Ray’s for nearly a year. He moved to Florida in 2019 to manage the meat department at the new Lucky’s Market in Ormond Beach. About a year later, the store closed.
“I started at the original Lucky’s Market in Colorado,” he said. “I did about 23 store openings for them. I moved here to grow with the company.”
Instead he found a home. Echoing Mr. Vanegas, Ray’s seemed like the perfect fit.
On Good Friday, Mr. Anderson stopped by the store to pick up some meat for Easter dinner and greet his former employees.
“I miss it now,” he said. “I miss my employees. I miss my customers.”
Mark and Marcy intend to take a year off before deciding what to do next. Mr. Anderson said they’re planning on moving to North Carolina in the future.
“My wife and I are in the final phase of our journey,” he said.