By Kathy McGrath
Mason Sherk, owner of HQ Meats in Highland Creek Village, has nine years’ experience working in the meat industry – and he’s only 24 years old. What started as a part-time job has become a passion for food that he hopes to share with local residents.
Entrepreneurship was a big part of Mason’s family. His father runs an electrical business and his grandparents, long-time residents of Highland Creek, owned a car wash and ice cream shop at Manse and Kingston Road.
Growing up in Guildwood, Mason watched his father experiment with beef tutorials on YouTube. He and his two brothers gathered around the counter as “taste testers,” revelling in the various flavours.
During high school and university Mason worked in the meat departments of numerous grocery chains and also ran a home business selling sausages he made mostly from scratch.
To top it all off, he studied under Tony Cribben, founder of The Butcher Shop, a well-known Scarborough establishment. “As an old-world butcher, Tony is a wealth of knowledge,” Mason said. “I learned so much from him.”
In October 2022, Mason pooled his knowledge and opened his own shop, but he’s added some modern touches. When you enter HQ Meats, you’ll find the staff working behind a glass wall. “We want to be as transparent as possible so people walk in and know exactly what they’re getting,” he said.
What you won’t see is a typical meat counter with a lot of food on display, especially not the beef. “I’m not a big believer in just grabbing something that’s been sitting out,” Mason said. “Oxidation deteriorates the quality of the meat, so we prefer to cut the beef to the customers’ specifications. We can cut different thicknesses or leave more fat if a customer wants it.”
On Fridays, the shop receives fresh fish and chicken from an organic farm. A few items like burgers, meatballs and stuffed chicken breasts are available flash frozen.
To enhance the customer experience, HQ Meats also offers daily cooked specials like tuna or salmon poke bowls (think sushi unravelled in a bowl) and brisket sandwiches. “We’re trying to promote freshness,” said Mason. He recommends people order these items ahead of time through the website or by phone because they sell out fast.
Although the “HQ” in the company name stands for high quality, Mason does not want customers to feel intimidated. “Some items are more expensive than others, but there should be value in what you buy,” he explained. “We want you to feel confident you’re paying a fair price for what you’re getting, and getting the best piece of meat available.” HQ Meats ages all its beef for at least 40 days to maximize quality, flavour and tenderness.
Mason is committed to helping his customers learn the best way to prepare the products. He’s spent countless hours experimenting with how to cook various cuts of meat, so each piece of beef comes with a QR code that links to an instructional YouTube video showing how to cook the item for maximum flavour. Mason is also happy to provide written instructions. “A few weeks ago, I wrote out my recipe for braised short ribs for a customer and he said they turned out amazing.”
“Customer service has fallen off since Covid,” he said. “It’s time to bring it back.”