A Cut Above the Competition


A Cut Above the Competition

Norma Aguinaga shows off a box of fresh-cut Certified Angus Beef steaks ordered by a customer. (VBR)
Norma Aguinaga shows off a box of fresh-cut Certified Angus Beef steaks ordered by a customer. (VBR)

Norma Aguinaga believes in divine intervention. Without it, Lord and Moe’s Meat Specialty Shop might not exist, and she might not even have a husband. “God still works miracles today for those that believe. Every customer that comes in here was brought by the Lord.”

Norma and husband Erasmo began their journey together while working at Texas Meat Purveyors in Harlingen. That’s where they met and later married. With combined experience of more than 50 years in the meat business, the couple faced significant professional and personal challenges to get where they are today. During her 24 years with Texas Meat Purveyors, Norma rose through the ranks to become office manager. Erasmo, who was employed there for 27 years, ran the warehouse when the company closed its doors in December 2017.

A little more than two months later the couple opened Lord and Moe’s in a small storefront in Harlingen. “I didn’t want it to be forgotten,” Norma said about the decision to continue to provide quality meats in the tradition of their former employer. “The Lord had already put it in our hearts. I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle.”

During this transition in their lives Erasmo, better known as Moe, was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. He began treatment and was placed on a list for a liver transplant, something doctors said could make the difference between life and death. As he waited for a donor, his condition improved and unexpectedly, and somewhat mysteriously, Moe’s liver functions returned to normal and he was taken off the transplant list.

“I give glory to God for healing my husband,” Norma says. Hence the business name of Lord and Moe’s Meat Specialty Shop.

Erasmo Aguinaga holds one of Lord and Moe’s most popular items, freshly cut and trimmed fajitas.
Erasmo Aguinaga holds one of Lord and Moe’s most popular items, freshly cut and trimmed fajitas.

Walking in the door of Lord and Moe’s on East Harrison, one would not know they are in a meat shop. There are no display cases where customers can pick and choose their cuts of meat. Norma greets customers from her desk in the front office. Erasmo, better known as Moe, is usually found keeping track of inventory and orders in the back room where the meats are stored in refrigeration and freezer units.

While the Aguinagas keep a small amount of inventory of their most requested items, such as fajitas, they specialize in custom orders for all cuts of beef, as well as pork, chicken and even quail and shrimp. The beef is all Certified Angus Beef, a cut above USDA Prime. “We stand out because of our high premium quality,” Norma said.

Customers place orders during the week and Norma sends them in every Thursday, with the meat arriving for pick up on Friday. The beef comes from Buckhead Meats in San Antonio, which specializes in fresh cuts of meat to order. If a customer wants steaks cut two inches thick, that’s what they get. Lord and Moe’s will also place orders other days if there is enough demand to justify it. “Whatever they order it’s going to come, just like that,” she said on a Thursday afternoon. “They process every day. They are cutting for me right now, steaks and fajitas, that will be here tomorrow.”

Many of Lord and Moe’s customers come from the ranks of former Texas Meat Purveyors clients, which gave the Aguinagas a solid start in building their business. One customer regularly sends Norma photos of dinners he has cooked with their meats as the entrée. Another customer in Amarillo occasionally places orders and drives to Harlingen to pick them up. During the holiday season, local businesses order fajitas and other cuts as gifts for employees.

“That’s the customer base that I have,” Norma said. “We keep track of what they like and we are ready when they are ready to order.”

Lord and Moe’s services mostly individual customers, although a few restaurants order from them. “I don’t target the restaurants because we don’t have a delivery truck right now.” A refrigerated truck is one item on the acquisition list to help keep the business growing. Another addition would be a large walk-in cooler.

Norma has faith that quality meats and good customer service will continue to bless the business. One review on Lord and Moe’s Facebook page summed it up this way: “One of the best hidden gems in Harlingen. A classic Texan meat shop where you can find the best meats. Owner here is so down to earth and very generous.”

George Cox is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years experience as a newspaper writer and editor. A Corpus Christi native, he started his career as a reporter for The Brownsville Herald after graduating from Sam Houston State University with a degree in journalism. He later worked on newspapers in Laredo and Corpus Christi as well as northern California. George returned to the Valley in 1996 as editor of The Brownsville Herald and in 2001 moved to Harlingen as editor of the Valley Morning Star. He also held the position of editor and general manager for the Coastal Current, a weekly entertainment magazine with Valleywide distribution. George retired from full-time journalism in 2015 to work as a freelance writer and legal document editor. He continues to live in Harlingen where he and his wife Katherine co-founded Rio Grande Valley Therapy Pets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising public awareness of the benefits of therapy pets and assisting people and their pets to become registered therapy pet teams.