When Christy Buso ’04 was a teenager, she wanted to be independent and earn her own spending money. The Watertown Meat Center in Watertown, Conn., a small full-service market specializing in meats and deli items, was the closest business within walking distance of her home, so she applied for a job. The owner at the time, Louis Capobianco, said to come back when school was out for the summer. So she did, ready to start.
Capobianco, however, had no recollection of their previous conversation. Known as a “tough cookie” in town, Capobianco apparently didn’t have the heart to deny a job to the eager teen and told Buso she could stay. “A lot of people thought he wasn’t nice, but that was just his demeanor,” she says. “He was a teddy bear.”
The two grew to depend on each other, Capobianco teaching Buso about the business, and Buso taking more responsibilities as she learned. Around the time Buso was leaving for college, Capobianco developed cancer. During breaks, she would work at the market and visit her mentor. Watching his health fail, Buso would ask Capobianco when he was going to sell the store. He would reply, “Whenever you are ready to buy it.” Someday, Buso thought, she would own the Meat Center, perhaps when she was 40. Capobianco passed away in 2001, and a few years later his family sold the market.
Graduating from Babson, Buso worked as an assistant to several vice presidents of a small entrepreneurial company. The small office size meant she could take on diverse projects, but it also meant limited opportunities for advancement. Then Buso received a message from her old boss’s wife, the landlord of the Meat Center’s building. Rumors were circulating that the store would close. Was Buso interested in buying it? After talking with her father, who offered to be her partner, Buso decided to go for it. In December 2006, they bought the store’s assets for $20,000 and then gutted, scrubbed, and painted the space. Buso also added a full kitchen. In February 2007, the Watertown Meat Center reopened. Buso was 24.
The first year was tough. “The owners had run the business into the ground,” Buso says. “Once people start shopping elsewhere, it’s hard to get them to come back.” But sales slowly grew. In addition to the full-service meats and deli items, Buso had added a sandwich station, which attracted customers and increased sales. Then in 2008, she went to culinary school, which enabled her to expand her preparedfood offerings and catering. Now most of the prepared foods sold by the Meat Center are from her recipes. As impressed customers encouraged others to come, word of mouth proved to be her best ally.
Today, Buso estimates about 1,000 customers come in each day, and her biggest problem is finding personal time. A selfproclaimed workaholic, she puts in 80 to 90 hours a week. With the store thriving, Buso is wondering what the next stage of life might bring. She won’t rule out other plans, but says the store will always be a part of her. “I love this store,” she says. “It’s been pretty much my entire life for the past 18 years.”—Donna Coco