POTTSTOWN — Two years ago, Mark and Dottie Spillane never imagined they would have the opportunity to open and run a business. During the pandemic they were experiencing homelessness and just struggling to survive, living in a tent community in Norristown along the Schuylkill River.
Now, the couple operates Better on the Bone Butcher Shop, a new business at 434 E. High St. in Pottstown that opened July 1, offering fresh meats, made-to-order sandwiches and fresh market produce.
The exterior of Better on the Bone Butcher Shop, 434 East High Street, Pottstown. The business opened July 1. (VIRGINIA LINDAK – FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP)
After being laid off from his job and dealing with health problems, Mark Spillane and his wife, Dottie, found themselves homeless. They connected with the Your Way Home program with the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities which provided help with finding housing stability.
The Spillanes began renting an apartment from Keith Costello, in the Pottstown building that now houses the butcher shop. Costello hired Spillane to do renovation work in the building. As he worked on renovations in the storefront room, Spillane realized he wanted to open up a butcher shop for the community. Costello, an investor in Pottstown, supported the idea of the new business.
“Dottie and I suffered a change in life back when COVID started. We were homeless for nine months living in a tent in Norristown. It was rough,” said Spillane. “Keith asked me if I wanted to do a little work for him here and there. I put a whole new store front on. I was working on it and I told him I wanted to rent the space and open a butcher shop.” After checking with the Borough of Pottstown, plans for the new business moved forward.
“This wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Keith,” Spillane added.
Instrumental in giving the Spillanes a chance, Costello and his wife Christa were inspired by the couple’s persistence and determination to improve their circumstances.
“I felt like they were honest and sincere. They were down on their luck and everyone deserves a second chance. They were put out on the street during a global pandemic that none of us have ever experienced in our lifetime. They were a victim of that. They transformed themselves and contributed to the overall revitalization of Pottstown through that,” Keith Cosello said, adding the Spillanes did all the work on the building.
Mark and Dottie Spillane have completely renovated the exterior of the E. High Street building in Pottstown that houses Better on the Bone Butcher Shop. This photo shows the building before any work was done. (PHOTO COURTESY KEITH COSTELLO)
The Spillanes thought the town needed a shop with fresh meats and could bring their prior experience to the business. Mark had worked with meats in the past and Dottie had been a deli manager at Giant Foods. The mom-and-pop type shop is settling into the 400 hundred block of High Street two months after opening.
“Things are going really well, more than anyone expected. We want to be different from everybody else. We make our own sausage, hamburger, cheesesteaks, chicken steaks, pulled pork, and long fresh-cut portions of beef. We get it from local farms,” said Mark Spillane, who added they also make a variety of sandwiches.
“I like the people coming in every day,” Dottie Spillane said. “We have prime rib steaks, rib-eye steaks, and sirloin. The steaks sell very well.”
“They’re great people who wanted a chance to turn their lives around and make things better for themselves and people around them. They were kind of like the leaders and always helping others in the homeless camp where they were staying and I found that inspirational,” said Christa Costello.
Pottstown businessman Keith Costello, right, and his wife Christa, left, own the East High Street building in Pottstown where Mark and Dottie Spillane live and operate Better on the Bone Butcher Shop. (PHOTO COURTESY KEITH COSTELLO)
Keith and Christa Costello have been involved with revitalization efforts in Pottstown for several years. He started the Pottstown Housing Coalition and currently serves as vice president. They also are founding members of the “I Pick Pottstown” campaign, a Pottstown Area Economic Development marketing plan focused on bringing awareness to the revitalization of the downtown district of Pottstown. The group hopes to attract more business owners, investors and companies to set up shop in Pottstown.
“Pottstown is so different and unique to any other town because of the architecture. All the buildings are so different from one another. It was a very flourishing industrial town back in the day. It is such a cool downtown, it just needs a little ‘TLC.’ So we thought, let’s start doing our part purchasing houses and buildings and make them better, revitalized,” Keith Costello said.
The couple has been focused on trying to improve the 400 block of High Street for a couple of years. They organized a 400 block improvement program and meet regularly with borough officials, police, Pottstown Area Economic Development and some of the other building owners.
“There aren’t a lot of businesses in that block. The shop is a great addition to that area for sure. They did such a good job and I’m very proud of both of them for working so hard. With their own hands they built everything from the ground up,” Christa Costello added.
“It’s such an inspirational story, just what they have done in a year-and-a-half from having nothing and being on the street, to turning their life around, not only helping themselves but helping the block too,” Keith Costello said.
“The 400 hundred block has been a tough, challenging block. That is one of the reasons we focused on that area. We felt the 400 block of High Street was kind of the forgotten block. We wanted to focus on trying to clean up the block. Having the butcher shop open will help with that. It’s a win-win situation.”
For more information about Better on the Bone Butcher Shop, visit https://www.facebook.com/betteronthebone.