|photography by Elizabeth Lavin|
You might not expect an ex-drunk who developed his business plan in the state pen to become the butcher of buzz to food-savvy upscale clients in Oak Lawn and the Park Cities. But 41-year-old Greg Geerts is all about personal redemption, and his 10-month-old VonGeertsem Butcher Shoppe (or just VG’s) has found a solid marketing niche for customers who want better than supermarket fare. The spartan little store next to Lucky’s is a deliciously retro entrée to custom cuts of top-of-the-shelf veal, ham, lamb, free-range chicken, or the specialty, certified Angus beef that’s 90 days corn fed and 29 days dry aged.
The contagiously enthusiastic Geerts, his life glowing with purpose, is himself part of the experience. The wasted days and nights that led to eight DWIs over a 10-year period in the ’90s and finally put him in prison fields “just like in Cool Hand Luke” are long gone, replaced by regular AA meetings with the Preston Group. Since his release in 2004 after an 18-month stretch, the Garland native has mentored for the group Against the Odds, which helps the children of prisoners avoid following in the footsteps of their parents.
Geerts’ other new friends include influential business types like restaurateur and contractor Santiago Peña (Stephan Pyles, W Hotel, etc.). The two met at the Albertson’s on Lemmon Avenue, where Geerts, a trained butcher, worked the meat counter after Huntsville. Peña, buying leftover trimmings for sauces for his restaurants, loved Geerts’ idea and helped him convert the vacant floral shop on Oak Lawn Avenue into a boutique for meat. An even stronger believer was Cathy Tamez, the financial advisor turned business partner that Geerts met through Match.com. They plan to marry in the spring and already are thinking about a second shop.
“I’m a firm believer that if you’ve got a good product and you’re knowledgeable about what you’re doing, you’re going to be just fine,” says Geerts, a devout Episcopalian. “God’s going to take care of you.”