WOODSBORO – Mouth-watering ribeye, T-bone steaks and sausage at the meat market, a Monday through Saturday buffet with a changing menu and a small grocery have kept Tuttle’s Meat Market and Grocery in Woodsboro one of the thriving businesses in Refugio County. Tuttle’s was recently named co-business of the year at the recent county chamber banquet.

The store and meat market have been a family tradition since 1928, when Charles Tuttle moved from Blanconia to Woodsboro and opened the business. Charles died in the 1950s, and two of his sons, Eugene and Alvin, ran the store.

“My dad (Eugene) was attending school in San Marcos and my uncle (Alvin) called and asked him to come down and help out at the store until he could hire somebody,” said Stanley Tuttle, the third generation of the family to run the operation. “After 50 years, Dad was finally able to retire.”

Stanley said he had other plans originally.

“My uncle told me, ‘You don’t want to work here — there are easier ways to make a living,’” he said. “I worked as a hot shot driver in the oil business for a few years, and my uncle died. My dad needed me to come to the store and help out.”

Considering he had grown up in the store, it was an easy enough transition for Stanley, whose sons, Cody and Matthew, are the fourth generation to continue the family business.

Cody makes the signature sausage that draws so many customers to Tuttle’s and is a full-time employee of the store. Matthew works for the Refugio County Sheriff’s Office and spends his time off helping at Tuttle’s.

Just as Stanley’s uncle had warned him, keeping the market running isn’t the easiest way to make a living.

“It’s a good 100 hours a week — or at least 80 hours — and more than that during deer season,” Stanley said.

A loyal base of customers — both local and those from out-of-town — make the hard work worthwhile, he said.

“The people who come in here are like family to us, and those who are newcomers we try to get around and talk to each of them,” Stanley said. “Sometimes it’s too busy, but we do try to get around to everyone.”

Making those long hours possible is support from family members. Cody and his wife Cassie have three girls; Matt and his wife Tess have a daughter and a son, and Stanley has a fiancé, Shelley Long.

In addition to the signature sausage that has been prepared the same way since Tuttle’s first opened 92 years ago, Cody has added several different flavors — such as green onion and extra garlic — to boost the store’s variety.

The store is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week (closed Sunday) and offers both a breakfast and lunch buffet.

“Saturday is by far our most popular day,” said Cody, who said brisket served Saturday’s is his favorite item on the menu — a notion that Stanley agreed with.

“People start lining up around 10:30 a.m., and we always have a full house on Saturday,” Stanley said.

Tuttle’s has been in its current location for 66 years.

“My grandpa built this place in ’54 — the original place was by the post office,” Cody said.

Booming business led to one expansion and then another, and Stanley said he is considering adding another building to focus on making sausage, with hopes to getting the meat into grocery stores such as H-E-B.

That potential expansion is still on the horizon, but customers are already flocking to the store.

“People stop in from all over,” Cody said. “It’s a good mix of local people and those coming from out of town.”

Stanley said he enjoys offering a service to customers that is becoming more and more rare.

“It’s definitely a dying art — nobody wants to work this way anymore,” he said. “As the times have changed we’ve also changed to try to keep up and stay in business. That’s why we added a dining room and started serving breakfast and lunch six days a week.”

Matt said meeting customers and getting their input is what he enjoys most about the business.

“I like getting to interact with everybody,” he said. “So many different people come through here, and it’s nice to see everybody and get positive feedback about all our products.”

Stanley said the type of service his business offers is a reminder of days gone by.

“When people come in here, it’s kind of like stepping back in time,” he said. “You don’t have many of these types of markets around anymore. We take a lot of pride in our products.

“Our ribeye and steaks are all certified Angus choice grade — it’s just a cut above the rest. You’ll pay a little more for it, but it’s so much better than what you’ll find anywhere else.”

Many of the recipes the store uses are the same ones that were used when the market first opened in 1928, Stanley said.

“Dad learned them from my grandfather, and I learned them from him,” Stanley said.

Stanley took over the store in 1994. The first dining room at Tuttle’s opened in 2002, and a second dining room opened in 2014 to accommodate the popularity of the buffet.

Stop by around lunch time, and you’ll find a full parking lot in front on the store and on either side of the store. Tuttle’s is a popular hangout for Texas Department of Public Safety officers, school district employees and a broad cross section of the community.

Jim Tiller, from the nearby community of Bonnie View, is among the regulars at Tuttle’s.

“What do I like about Tuttle’s?” Tiller reflected. “Everything. It’s a great place and so important to this community. You won’t find a better place anywhere.”

Brian Schirmer of Woodsboro said Tuttle’s is his favorite place to eat.

“I pretty much eat here every day, and I love coming here,” he said.

Chris Niemann said Tuttle’s is like a community center for Woodsboro.

“It’s where all the families and friends get together,” he said. “I’ve been coming here all my life.”

Felton White of Victoria said he has been making the drive to Tuttle’s for decades.

“I come a long way, but it’s worth the drive,” he said. “I met Stanley’s (father) back in ’86. I love the meat here — especially the bacon and the sausage, and the people here are so nice.”

Jeff Osborne is editor of the Refugio County Press.