Sausage success

Oroville's Wagon Wheel prepares to open a second shop in the Midwest

For years I've heard word of a fabulous butcher shop in Oroville called the Wagon Wheel. The first time I learned about the store, a friend was talking about his hunting trip and bringing the carcass—it was a deer, I think—to the Wagon Wheel for butchering and packaging. What a cool service, I thought. (I later learned about Chico Locker & Sausage, which also will process wild game.)

What I had yet to do, however, was step foot in the Wagon Wheel. And, while doing a little online research on the place, I learned that they're opening up a second location—in Bloomington, Ind.—later this summer. Now was the time to go.

So I headed down the Olive Highway, well past Gold Country Casino, and paid a visit to Tom and Pat Butler, brothers and owners of the venerable butcher shop, which also features an impressive deli counter and market.

“We want to see if our business model could be successfully packaged for—potentially in the future—franchising,” explained Tom before having to sign off to help a customer.

“We're small and homey,” continued Pat, who'd just finished grinding beef. “We're an old-fashioned meat market and deli. We think the country is trending back to liking that feel, that hometown feel.”

I have to agree with Pat that there is something nice about not only knowing my butcher but knowing that he's picking out the best cuts of meat—that he's more invested in the quality of his product than making a quick buck. He acknowledged that as well and lamented the fact that some people don't understand why Wagon Wheel meat is more expensive than Walmart's.

“You get what you pay for,” Pat said. “In a perfect world, that's the case, anyway.”

The Butlers, who bought the Wagon Wheel from their parents in 2012, found some willing partners in Indiana and have been working toward duplicating their business there. There will be no wild game processing, Pat said, but there will be a full butcher shop, deli, market and sausage kitchen.

“The sausage kitchen is a huge part of our business,” he said. The family has worked for 35 years to develop specialty flavors for its smoked and raw sausages, which are a huge hit. They also do very well with marinated meats—mostly chicken and tri-tip.

Setting up the second location has been a learning experience for the Butlers as well. It's helped them to streamline their own business, Pat said, by forcing them to take a closer look at how everything works. At the end of the day, he said, the Oroville location has improved during the process and he's confident that their Indiana partners will represent them well.

Visit the Wagon Wheel at 4607 Olive Highway seven days a week or check out the store online at