An ex-cop goes whole hog in starting his second careers
Author Nick Baines
IF YOU CAN’T ENVISION a police officer becoming an art curator and then an expert in heritage pig breeds, you haven’t met Ron Buechele. In 2000, after serving as an officer in the St. Louis County Police Department for 20 years, Buechele—who had studied for a degree in fine art in his spare time—purchased an old police station and outfitted it as a gallery. Called Mad Art, it showcased artists from St. Louis and beyond. Six years later, after retiring from the force to nurture his gallery full time, he made another career move and opened a barbecue shop, Capitalist Pig, in the same location.
“We did the catering for art exhibitions ourselves, and wanted to do something more permanent,” he explains. “That’s when I bought a smoker.”
Not one to skimp on research, Buechele began looking into heritage-breed pigs, such as Berkshire and Chester White, both of which have been around since before the industrial revolution. He also created several barbecue sauces, including a mustard-based variety and one with blackberries and ancho chilies. Then he fired up his smoker.
The result was a line that snakes daily through the gallery and out the door. From 11 a.m. until the food sells out around 3 p.m., Capitalist Pig is packed with patrons viewing art and chowing down. “Mad Art and Capitalist Pig attract entirely different crowds, but there’s a lot of crossover,” Buechele says. “When people come in to look at art, it’s hard to ignore the smell of barbecue.”