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Co-owners Eric LaVigne (left) and Dana Pontbriand recently opened Vermont Meat & Seafood Market in Williston. Local and natural, local and natural. The words kept coming from Dana Pontbriand’s mouth as he gave a tour of Vermont Meat & Seafood Market on Friday, a day before the store opened to the public.  He pointed out the display case for meats, which would soon be filled with local and natural cuts. A wine rack contained, in addition to national and international offerings, a large selection of local libations from Shelburne Vineyard, Snow Farm Vineyard, Boyden Valley Winery and others. A fridge held a variety of local cheeses. In a corner near the deli display case lay numerous frames containing photos and descriptions of the local farms that provide natural products to Vermont Meat & Seafood Market.

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LaVigne and Pontbriand unpack cheese on Friday while preparing for Saturday’s grand opening.Pontbriand started the market, which held its grand opening on Saturday, with business partner Eric LaVigne.  LaVigne said he graduated with honors from the University of New Hampshire in 2005 with a degree in Business Management. After working in a cubicle at a bank for a few years, he found himself itching to launch an entrepreneurial venture. He pitched ideas to friends, eventually convincing poker buddy Pontbriand, who said he spent three years working as a butcher and manager for another local Meat Market, to go into business.

Pontbriand said it was difficult to leave Shelburne Meat Market, which he called “like family.” Eventually, however, he said, “I wanted to do my own thing.”

That thing was promoting and selling local, natural meat and other products through Vermont Meat & Seafood Market.

Their different backgrounds — Pontbriand handles the butchery, LaVigne the business — allows each co-owner to focus on one aspect of the business.

“We both want to learn each other’s trade,” Pontbriand said. “But the customers come first.”

“We don’t step on each other’s toes,” LaVigne added.

The two said they’ve been planning the business since last year, reaching out to farms in the area to build partnerships. The market will sell products from LaPlatte River Angus Farm in Shelburne, Misty Knoll Farms in New Haven and Earth & Sea Fish Market out of Manchester, Vermont.

Vermont Meat & Seafood Market uses a 12-by-20-by-10-foot walk-in fridge to store pork, chicken, beef, bison, duck, fish and other meats.

“There really isn’t much we’re missing,” Pontbriand said.

He also talked about the number of cuts of beef he could take from a cow; rather than just the popular rib, tenderloin and sirloin cuts, he said Vermont Meat & Seafood Market will also offer chuck, top round, bottom round and other pieces of beef.

The market represents more than just a business venture. Pontbriand said he often cooks meat at home for his own meals, making it easy to give recommendations to customers.

“We hope to be 100 percent local, eventually,” Pontbriand said, “with the education to go with it.”

(This was taken from an article written by Greg Duggan from the Williston Observer on November 10th, 2010.  It had been slightly modified from the original article).