After 23 years as a retail deli business, the Butler’s Pantry Inc. is closing its two Columbus locations and converting the business into a wholesale market provider.
Customers will still be able to buy Butler’s Pantry products — just not at the retail sites on Auburn Avenue and Rollins Way, which will close Dec. 23. Instead, products will be available at select restaurants and grocery stores.
Teresa Tomlinson, Butler’s Pantry co-owner and president, said it had been clear to the company for some time that Butler’s Pantry had a broader potential audience than what had been in place for more than two decades.
“It really is an evolution of this business,” she said. “It is the next step for the next decade. We’re really excited about it.”
The company will focus on providing its gourmet deli products and prepared meals to restaurants through wholesale distributors. It also plans to license The Butler’s Pantry brand, recipes and restaurant operations for eateries throughout the region.
Tomlinson and husband, Trip, purchased The Butler’s Pantry in 2003 from founder Jenny Lind Berry. The eatery provides Southern gourmet salads, sandwiches, desserts and ready-to-go meals.
Tomlinson said the company began thinking about possibilities for growth about a year ago. The long-term lease for their flagship location on Auburn Avenue was to expire in 2009, and the store was in need in major repairs. The company was faced with moving the store, or closing it down for months of renovation.
Another option was moving the company toward wholesale. In October, the company announced it had partnered with food manufacturing and marketing company Columbus Gourmet Inc. to offer its frozen meals at grocery stores across the country. Tomlinson said the partnership helped convince them wholesale would be the best solution.
“It just became obvious that this was the new chapter of Butler’s Pantry,” she said.
Their products will soon be available at local grocers like Lewis Jones Market and Marvin’s Market.
Next year, the company plans to place its deli brands at local restaurants, such as Columbus Coffee Company. It is also in talks with a local restauranteur about its first licensed eatery, which will also go by the name The Butler’s Pantry.