‘I feel horrible’: Rocky Point meat shop owner apologizes to customers after closure without explanation
ROCKY POINT, NC (WECT) - The purported owner of a beloved meat shop is apologizing after it unexpectedly shut down, leaving customers clamoring for an explanation and wondering where their money and meat has gone.
Clark’s Sausage and Pork Outlet located at 4800 NC Hwy. 133 in Rocky Point, is a family-run business spanning three generations that has been operating since 1926.
Clark’s sells food, but the most sought-after service was hunters dropping off their meat for processing into sausage, burgers, cube steak, and sliced steak. The business also delivered meat products to Wilmington restaurants.
Customers drop off their hunted game and a money deposit, and pick up the processed meat a few weeks later.
Clark’s shut down sometime early 2019 with the deposits and meat left in limbo for about 200 customers.
Deborah Clark, who says she is the current owner, declined to conduct an on-camera interview with WECT but became emotional over the phone as she explained the situation.
Clark said her husband, Charles Henry Clark III, used to own the business but unexpectedly died in 2016.
“He was a very well loved man,” Clark said of her late husband.
After his death, Clark’s Sausage and Pork Outlet was passed to Deborah, she said.
Clark, who is 60 years old, said she became overwhelmed with the day-to-day operations and did not know how to run the shop. She said her daughter tried to help too.
“We couldn’t catch up financially. We tried so hard. I’ve never tried so hard at anything in my life," Clark explained. "My husband ran a very good business, and he was a very loved man. I feel horrible that I feel like I ruined his business. This is devastating. This has broken our hearts.”
Clark said Hurricane Florence caused Clark’s to shut down. The equipment inside was outdated and damaged by the storm. The old building also experienced leaks.
The business closed down after Hurricane Florence, and Clark said it reopened two months later. But according to Clark, the IRS called two weeks ago to demand the business shut down permanently because of the financial and tax situation. Fearing trouble with the government, Clark said she heeded the warning.
“I’ve been apologizing to everyone all over," Clark said.
An IRS spokesperson reached by phone Wednesday said it is against the law to comment on specific taxpayers, including businesses, citing US Code Section 6103.
All of the customer’s meat has been taken to a landfill -- several tons of it. Clark said it began to defrost and she had no choice but to dispose of it for safety reasons. She denies any rumors that she sold the meat.
“We’ve had a rough two weeks," said Clark. “The whole time I’ve been doing this, I know in my heart, I did the right thing. I did not do anything wrong.”
Clark is trying to return deposit money to about 200 customers as soon as the business has liquidated.
If you are a customer and want to get your deposit money back, Clark said to send a self-addressed stamped envelope to 4800 NC Hwy. 133 in Rocky Point. She hopes to be able to return money to customers by next week.
“There are so many people," Clark said. “It’s been one thing after another, after another, after another.”
Jordan Diemer, a lifelong hunter, said he dropped off 80 pounds of bear meat and a $30 deposit on Nov. 21 to Clark’s.
“I have not heard anything. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I called quite a few times, even rode up there," Diemer said. “There were no notes on the door. If it was that type of situation, you would think you would at least put a note on the door letting people know who to contact.”
Diemer said the loss of his bear meat has affected his finances and food.
“The money is one thing, but it’s really the meat for us hunters," Diemer said. “It’s a lot of work to do that. It’s a lot of money, a lot of time. We’re talking thousands of dollars just to be able get land where it is huntable, to be able to harvest meat, to be able to eat the meat, and we really rely on the meat through the year to eat so we don’t have to buy ground beef from the store.”
The phone number listed for Clark’s on multiple websites has been disconnected, and its website listed on Yelp no longer exists.
On Wednesday, the storefront did not list any indication it was shut down permanently. The open sign was not lit up and the branded sign remained on the ground but there was no written paper or explanation out front.
Frustrated customers contacted WECT and posted on Clark’s Facebook page searching for answers.
“Took in a deer to process at the end of December. Couldn’t get up with them by telephone so my husband drove out today. Doors locked! Only a note from others looking for their meat! This is BS! We need answers! Never again!” one person posted on Facebook.
“Where is our 4 deer we sent to be processed? No one is answering the phone and doors are closed !!!!!! No signs anywhere. This needs to be taken care of. Pretty sad these 4 deer are going to be wasted without answers," another customer wrote.
Customer Jess Powell dropped off bear meat at Clark’s in December for processing. He called twice in January asking about the processing status, and was told the business had not gotten to it yet.
He has not heard from the business since.
“I think if they were unable to complete the orders, they could have returned the meat to respective owners," said Powell. ”I hope whatever personal problems are going on she is able to work out but definitely I would recommend notifying all your customers."
“We’re a small community, and this just isn’t how you treat people in a small community," Diemer added. "There was every opportunity to let us know that something was going on. We could have come by, picked up the meat, taken it to a different processor or something along those lines.”
(Update 11:20 p.m. Wednesday: This article has been updated to reflect that Clark’s closed down after Hurricane Florence, but re-opened two months later before closing down mid-February.)
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