By Lance Sparks

Mike Wooley is the current owner of Long’s Meat Market, 81 E 28th Ave, adjacent to Eugene’s Southtowne Shoppes complex. How he got here is an Oregon success story, involving long-term dedication to quality in products and personal service, a lot of hard work, endurance, and daring.

Long’s Meat Market was established in 1927 by Ernest “Butch” Long. The market has played a major role in our residents’ diets—in homes and in fine restaurants—ever since. It quickly built its reputation on its full range of high-quality meats and poultry—and for striving to meet clients’ needs, its hallmark then and now. Twenty years later, Long’s son, Melvin, took over, after earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon, opening shop in the Stanley Market on Willamette (later known as L&L Market, now housing the Bier Stein). Dick Wooley, Mike’s father, went to work in the market in 1959 and, with a partner, bought the store in 1976. His son, Mike Wooley, bought the store from his father in “Christmas of ’94,” Mike recalls. Dick stayed on until he retired in 1996, after 37 years in the business.

Long's Meat Market for Eugene Magazine

The long-term success of Long’s Meats has depended, in part, on well-maintained local connections, and it has helped that Mike Wooley is a local guy, through and through. His mother, Julan Wooley, gave birth to Michael Steven at Sacred Heart Hospital in 1959. He quickly became “Mike” in local schools, and graduated from Springfield High in 1977. He spent two years in Monmouth at Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University), planning to get a degree and become an instructor in health education. He was wavering in his goal when, in 1980, “Dad needed my help,” he explains.

In the ’70s and ’80s, the meat business nearly sank. Part of the problem was the widespread notion that meat is tied closely to high cholesterol and heart disease. “Dr. Atkins is the one who straightened the ship for the meat industry,” Mike says, referring to Dr. Robert Atkins, whose popular diet called for people who wanted to lose weight to eat lots of protein, including meats, and much fewer carbohydrates. The current rage for the so-called Paleo diet can’t be hurting the meat industry, either; in fact, Long’s Meat Market is enjoying rapid growth: Income-wise, “every year since 1994 has beat the previous year,” Mike says. “There’s a lot of drive behind it.”

Mike decided to move Long’s to Southtowne in 2004, landing next to the popular Chase Flowers & Gifts. It was a risky move, “not easy,” he says, adding that Roy “Dan” Shaw, a retired business owner and “a big fan,” came through with the essential backing, financial and otherwise. “I had a mentor there,” Mike says. “He believed in me doing it.”

Long’s Meat Market not only custom-cuts standard meats and poultry, they also work hard to meet customers’ requests for more exotic fare. Some are “common,” like “pheasant and guinea fowl,” Mike says. Some are “wilder things,” like rattlesnake, kangaroo, frog legs, ostrich, bear, and emu. But Mike Wooley, like his predecessors, has developed a wide range of contacts, locally and beyond, and can meet even the wildest of needs, though some requests, he says, just “take a little longer.”

Still, most orders are routine, and the routine requests these days are driven by health-conscious consumers, many of whom are also concerned about the ethical treatment of their foods. They want meats that are hormone- and pesticide-free, poultry that is raised free-range, animals fed “natural” diets: grass-fed beef, poultry not fattened on animal by-products. These requests are now so commonplace they can be met immediately at the counter.

Among its new neighbors in Southtowne, Long’s Meats has thrived. Chase Flowers has moved out, but that’s given Mike Wooley a new opportunity, developing the space into a deli, with tables, chairs, and a flat-screen TV for streaming the Food Network (except on UO game days). Display cases are filled with prepared meats and cheeses, all of the highest quality Mike Wooley can find. Servers can make sandwiches to order, but “we’re still working on a stable menu,” Mike says. Shelves are laden with a wide variety of wines, not a huge number but carefully selected for food-friendly flavors and good value, some available by the glass, along with craft beers, ales, ciders, sodas, even kombucha. “We’re still trying to progress our shop,” Mike says. “I’ve never been satisfied. We’re enjoying this time. But I always know there’s vulnerability.”

81 E 28th Ave.