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A vending machine for meat?

Tracy Schuhmacher Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Kevin McCann stands with his new meat vending machine in the entry lobby at his McCann's Local Meats on South Clinton Avenue in Rochester.

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ROCHESTER — After working six days a week for five years straight, Kevin McCann got an unexpected two-month break. After deciding to close his butcher shop out of safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic, he got a chance to reflect on his business.

McCann's Local Meats on its reopening will have implemented some changes that would have been more difficult during the unrelenting flow of day-to-day business.

The most obvious change will greet customers when they open the front door of the shop at 739 S. Clinton Ave., in Rochester's South Wedge.

Standing in the shop's reconfigured vestibule will be a large refrigerated vending machine. Its nine levels of revolving shelves will be stocked with things like freshly cut uncooked steaks, burgers, sausages, pork chops, chicken and bacon. There might also be some of the shop's prepared foods, such as mac salad, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, baked beans and soup. The machine will accept credit cards and Apple Pay, but no cash.

McCann sees the vending machine as a way to serve customers who want minimal contact during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to sell products when the shop is closed.

McCann got the idea from Joshua Applestone, with whom McCann worked in the past. Applestone owns Applestone Meat Company, which has two shops in the Hudson Valley that offer fresh-cut meat from vending machines, and are open 24/7.

“He’s been a bug in my ear for five years," McCann said. “This was a cool opportunity. It’s absolutely opportunistic on my end.”

Other changes at McCann's Local Meats will include limiting the number of people in the building to five, requiring face masks in the building, observing guidance on the floor for six-foot spacing, a sanitizing system for pens used to sign credit card receipts, and an online ordering system for ready-to-eat food such as sandwiches, French fries and pancakes.

While McCann may be excited to embrace relatively new ideas like a meat vending machine and online ordering, he still is passionate about the old-fashioned philosophy he has had from the beginning. He continues to source his meats from local farmers — a practice that may put him at a competitive advantage during a meat shortage.

Many of the country's large-scale meat production facilities have had to close due to coronavirus illnesses, reducing the availability of meat. As a result, prices have risen dramatically.

That is not the case at McCann's Local Meats. The shop's prices are usually competitive with the higher priced natural, organic meats sold at grocery stores.

His costs have remained stable; he continues to pay farmers a fair price for their products. He plans to increase prices slightly — by as much as a dollar a pound for some cuts — to cover expenses like increased packaging costs, face masks and extra work brought on by the coronavirus.

"We won’t see any shortages," he said. "Our supply chain is great. Our farmers are happy we’re coming back. Our supply is going to be 100%.”

Kevin McCann runs his new meat vending machine through multiple tests as he sets the machine up in the entry lobby at his McCann's Local Meats on South Clinton Avenue in Rochester.