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Butcher remains in love with work

Art Blackburn has been wielding knives and cleavers since he was ateen-ager. But the 59-year-old butcher says his enthusiasm remains as strong today as it was his first day on the job back in 1950.

"I love what I'm doing," said Blackburn, who along with his wife, Jan, owns Art's Meat on State Road 44. "The job is easy, pleasant, but sometimes the people drive you crazy!"

Blackburn began cutting meat in a small butcher shop in Detroit, his hometown. The hours were long and the pay was small, but he liked the work.

A few years later, he became the meat manager for a large grocery chain. "I worked there for 25 years and decided it was time to move on and offer my services elsewhere, so that's how I ended up opening my own shop," he said.

Blackburn and his wife moved to Florida and opened a butcher shop in Brooksville. They ran that business for seven years before selling it and moving to Inverness five years ago.

"The meat business was still a big part of my life, so we decided to open a shop here, which was a good decision," he said.

For the past five years, Blackburn and his wife have spent most of their daylight hours running their business. Blackburn said he and his wife work a total of about 100 hours a week.

"It's not easy work, but we are dedicated and really enjoy it," he said. "My wife has stood beside me all the way, and that makes a difference."

Blackburn gets butchered meat trucked in from Colorado. He slices it into smaller steaks, ribs and other cuts for sale. The shop sells everything from hot dogs and bologna to freezer packs of various cuts.

While he's busy cutting and wrapping meats, she's taking care of the customers. The couple said they have about 75 to 100 customers a day.

"The fun part of this business is dealing with the people who come in here," said Mrs. Blackburn.

When the door starts swinging off the hinges, Blackburn also gets the opportunity to wait on customers. His patrons seem to be intrigued with his knowledge of meats.

How long does Blackburn plan to keep his shop open? "Oh! I will work until I retire and then hire somebody to take my position. But I will always dabble in this business as long as I can," he said.

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