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Every day, we receive emails from readers sharing everything from quirky Southern trivia to style questions to restaurant recommendations. We love them all, but we find that messages with news of seemingly “everyday” acts of kindness are the ones that make us smile the widest (or tear up the most, depending on the day). We recently received one such email about Josh Lapidus, Meat and Seafood Specialist at Dunnavant Valley Piggly Wiggly.

We learned that Josh’s expertise, while impressive, isn’t the reason why many of his customers call him the best butcher in Birmingham — it’s his unique ability to translate his work to acts of kindness. We loved hearing all about Josh (who seems destined for his line of work) and his acts of service in and around Birmingham. We think you will too!

As it turns out, Josh is part of a historic Alabama legacy of butchering. “My great grandfather, Rubin Hanan, was a butcher when he immigrated to the United States from Turkey decades ago,” Josh says. “He and my great grandmother, Julia Hanan, were the epitome of hardworking people who wanted to help others, which they did through their butcher shop for years.”

The Hanans opened up Penny Profit Meat Market in Montgomery in 1935, and they became known not only for their successful shop — they were one of the first to offer pre-seasoned, grill-ready steaks — but also for their signature “Magic Seasoning” blends, still available for purchase today. “They were known for having the best steaks this side of heaven,” Josh adds.

Josh Lapidus, meat and seafood specialist at Dunnavant Valley Piggly Wiggly

For Josh Lapidus, butchering is an art form — but his training and expertise have also uniquely positioned him to serve his community.

While Josh attempted to follow a different path, he felt an inexplicable pull to the family trade. “I started college fully intending to become a veterinarian,” Josh says. However, while he was completing rotations required for veterinary school at Auburn University, he took a course in meat science — and everything clicked into place. “I felt an overwhelming sense of purpose — like I was right where I needed to be,” he says of his time at Lambert-Powell Meats Laboratory at Auburn. Josh followed that instinct and switched majors, eventually graduating from Auburn’s College of Agriculture with a degree in meat science.

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After a brief stint at a large-scale foodservice supplier, Josh felt called to a role that would allow him to interact one-on-one with customers. “I enjoyed the fast pace of a factory setting, but I am too much of a people person,” Josh says. “Making relationships and talking with people is in my blood, so I knew I needed to get into a role that allowed me to do what I love but in a way that allowed me to interact with more of my community.”

On a whim, Josh contacted Piggly Wiggly, and within a week, he was behind the counter of their River Run location in Mountain Brook. “I immediately loved talking with customers and educating them,” Josh adds. “When I handed them a steak over the counter, and they asked how to cook it, they probably got an answer they didn’t expect. I could tell you bare minimum or different cooking methods. But that’s my favorite part of the job — talking with the customer and coaching them on how to best prepare what they buy.”

Headshot of Josh

Josh says of his time at Auburn University, “I learned so much there … it was ingrained in me to go out into the world and advance the meat programs of our country.”

Josh’s eagerness to be of service only increased after moving to Piggly Wiggly’s Dunnavant Valley location in 2018. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, his passion for engaging with the community reached new heights. Despite the pressures of the grocery industry during that time, Josh remained focused on doing what he did best. That meant continuing to provide his customers with the highest quality product — along with his phone number, in case they needed cooking tips — and delivering orders to the homes of at-risk customers. “I had some customers that would text me their grocery list,” Josh explains. “During my lunch break, I’d go fulfill their list and run it to their house. Or I’d fulfill their list, and they would pull up curbside to get it. I was happy to do it.”

Josh continued to look for ways his skills could benefit others. When the tornadoes rolled through the area in March 2021, ravaging communities along Highway 280, he again stepped in, butcher knife and grill in tow, to organize a group to provide much-needed meals. “We found the most devastated areas we could find, set up shop, and started burning charcoal to grill some food,” Josh said. “It was the best way I could find to help folks that needed it.”

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Josh Lapidus of Dunnavant Valley Piggly Wiggly smiling and holding piece of raw meat

Josh is taking a short break in a couple of weeks to marry his college sweetheart, Ivey, but he’s coming back right after the wedding to continue pursuing his passion, one cut of meat at a time. “I love serving my customers the best quality products available, and I’m happy to help anyone however I can,” he says. “If you don’t have a good community behind you, you have nothing. I want mine to know I’m here for them, whether it’s for the best cut of meat around or something more.”

All photography courtesy of Josh Lapidus/@joshatthepig


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