(Swinery staffers photographed today by Christopher Boffoli: Head Butcher Joseph Brewer, Head Cook Garrett Doherty)
Another twist for the much-lauded West Seattle meat mecca The Swinery: Its founder, Gabriel Claycamp, announced via Facebook that he’s moved on, just one week after its “grand reopening.” He says he’s looking for work. But he also says he leaves it in “good hands” – it’s not closing. As we write, we’ve just heard from Christopher Boffoli, who has covered The Swinery extensively – he is there now and says this happened abruptly, adding that he’s been told the primary investor is at the bank now, changing ownership papers, and, “Employees here say the Swinery will continue and that this is a positive thing. Claycamp was not meeting payroll.” 4:05 PM UPDATE: Christopher has just spoken with Claycamp – read on for some of what he said:
(Swinery courtyard, photographed today by Christopher Boffoli)
Claycamp says that his decision to leave was primarily a result of the fact that he needed to feed his kids. He claims that, throughout the time he has been trying to get his small business off the ground he has not been drawing enough salary to survive. He is in the process of going through a divorce which has exacerbated the situation.
Though the decision seems sudden, Claycamp says that for a while he had been trying to work something out with the Swinery’s investor James Dillon. The plan, he says, was for Dillon to take over as sole proprietor and for him to hire Claycamp as a chef. Claycamp says that since September he has only drawn $4200 in salary and that with his wife leaving he simply could not do it anymore. Dillon has stepped in from time to time to help Claycamp meet his rent. He also gave Claycamp $10,000 to cover family expenses. But recently he put his foot down and told Dillon that he needs to collect a paycheck. He says that Dillon did not agree. (Christopher is working to reach Dillon to find out what he has to say.)
Claycamp says that the staff in place at the Swinery now is very capable and more than ready to take over the reins. “There are a few things, like with dry curing, that I’m essentially the only one who knows how the process works. They’re going to need help with certain things like their HACCP plans. I’d love to be able to help them transition.”
Claycamp admits that their business was way down in May. “About one half of where it needed to be.” And that during that month they ran up about $7,000 of new debt and some of the utilities, including garbage removal, were cut off for three weeks. But he said that the business has finally been doing very well this month and that they are at long last at a point where they are better than breaking even.
Regarding what’s next: “I was just offered a job today, actually, in Walla Walla. Someone saw my post on Facebook and got in touch with me. I still have no decided if I’m going to take it but it would be interesting. Whatever I do I just need to be able to feed my kids. I’d love to teach classes. But I’d even work as a prep cook at this point. I’m a terrible businessman. I just have to face it. I’ve been acting for too long like a dilettante … where I thought I could just keep working and everything would work out. It is time that I went to work for somebody else, and maybe keep working for somebody else forever.”
More to come, as more info is obtained.