A sizable crowd swayed to the tunes of The Groove Band as the musicians performed on the sidewalk at Crossroads Center, 464 Main St. in Monroe, Saturday afternoon. The Brazilian BBQ boys grilled traditional Brazilian meats nearby. Parking spaces were hard to come by during the grand opening celebration of MeetMe: Premium Steaks, which recently opened in the shopping center.
MeetMe buys its beef from Omaha, Neb., through warehouses in New Hampshire and New Jersey. The shop also has prime cuts of pork, lamb and poultry, along with specialty items like sausages, goat, tripe and frog legs.
Rodrigo DeSouza, who co-owns MeetMe with his friend, Thamima Dias, said they have everything customers need for the center of their plates.
“It’s grilling season. We have Memorial Day Weekend coming up,” DeSouza said. “We feel it is the best time to be open for sure — at the beginning of the summer. And we’ll be prepared for the holiday season when people buy full filets, ribeyes and briskets.”
On Saturday, First Selectman Ken Kellogg, State Rep. Tony Scott, R-112th, Town Councilman Terry Rooney and members of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce and Monroe Economic Development Commission participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Congratulations on behalf of the town of Monroe,” Kellogg said after the ribbon was cut. “We’re so excited to have you here. You’re a wonderful addition to our community. It’s so great to see the center getting fully occupied. We’re so glad you’re part of it. We’re all here to say how much we want to support you.”
DeSouza grew up in Brazil and emigrated to the United States 20 years ago. He used to work at Old Newtown Inn, where he was a server, a caterer and a bartender. He also sang in a Brazilian band for fun.
Dias grew up in Brazil, before moving to the U.S. five years ago. She met and befriended DeSouza by attending gatherings, where people enjoyed Brazilian barbecue and cuisine.
Dias worked as a caterer at different restaurants and DeSouza had experience on the distribution side of the business.
The friends first had the idea of starting their own business together amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when shortages in the meat supply made it difficult for people to eat their favorite dishes. While there was a shortage in supply, they noticed the demand was always high.
“We even thought of buying a van and doing home deliveries,” DeSouza recalled.
Dias is friends with John Chaves, who owns the building at Crossroads Center. When she asked Chaves if any space was available for her and DeSouza to open their business, he told her about the vacant storefront at 464 Main St. in Monroe.
DeSouza said they signed the lease in May of 2022 and obtained all of the necessary permits, before construction began in November into December.
“We are so happy, because we didn’t know how welcoming this community would be,” he said of opening in Monroe. “We have Facebook groups and they’ve been giving us so much love and spreading the word. People are trying our stuff and sharing their experiences on social media.”
MeetMe has Facebook and Instagram pages and will soon launch its website and offer deliveries to complement the retail at its brick and mortar store. Store hours are Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In addition to its meats, MeetMe offers steak sauces and other condiments, hot dog buns, bread and speciality items.
On Saturday, Dave Wolfe, of Monroe, took a package of pão de queijo, which means cheese bread, out of a freezer. He remembers the delicacy from the year he spent in Brazil through the Rotary Club long ago.
“Being able to get stuff like this is a special treat,” Wolfe said. “Having it around the corner makes it easier … or more dangerous.”
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