Echos of defunct meat company sound with successor

Blue Valley Meats, which is run by people previously associated with Thundering Hooves, is headed toward opening a shop in Walla Walla.

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WALLA WALLA -- The management team that previously ran Walla Walla's shuttered pasture-raised meat operation Thundering Hooves has started its own sustainable meats company and will sell off the remaining Thundering Hooves inventory as its first order of business.

The owners behind Blue Valley Meats all met while working in various roles for Thundering Hooves and will continue the sustainable farming practices for which that company was known under the new name.

Blue Valley Meats will open a new retail shop in a different part of town than Thundering Hooves' Isaacs Avenue location, said Keith Swanson, who ran sales for Thundering Hooves and will now do the same at Blue Valley Meats. Swanson did not disclose the new location. He said it's still under construction. A soft opening is planned in early May, and a grand opening is expected in June.

The new meat operation is expected to fill the void left from the abrupt closure March 14 of Thundering Hooves. Operators, however, distinguish that though they all have histories with that company, Blue Valley Meats has no affiliation with Thundering Hooves, nor the debt that ultimately led to the company's closure.

The Thundering Hooves meats that had been seized in the closure process as assets for creditors are now being sold through Blue Valley, said Swanson.

"The creditors who had taken control of the meat inventories in mid-March were looking for a place to sell those meats," Swanson explained this morning. "They shopped around. They inquired in a lot of places and because of our personal connections to the community of Walla Walla and our buying clubs, in the end we were the best fit for being able to successfully sell these specific products."

He said he and the team have not had contact with Joel Huesby or other Huesby family members that started Thundering Hooves. Swanson's wife, Clarice Swanson, is part of the Huesby family.

Swanson said the team at Blue Valley intends to carry on what was started with Thundering Hooves. "What Joel came up with 10 years ago when he started Thundering Hooves was a great concept because he understood that there were a lot of customers out there -- our neighbors -- who were really yearning for local meats that were healthy, that were from animals raised humanely," he said.

He said the business will carry on the neighborhood buying club program from Thundering Hooves.

After the existing inventory is gone, Blue Valley intends to launch its own line of meats later this spring.

"The philosophy of sourcing 100 percent grass-fed beef and lamb, plus locally-raised pork and poultry has not changed from what we did at Thundering Hooves, though we will be adding a variety of new products to the list, such as grass-fed dairy products and wild-caught seafood," the Blue Valley website explains.

One difference, Swanson said, will be consumer focus.

"The overall focus of this company is going to be less about grocery stores and restaurants, especially in the Seattle area," he said. "It will be more about direct-to-the-consumer sales."

He said some remodeling and equipment purchases are still in the works.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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