It was almost exactly thirty years ago that A R Day (Butchers) opened their doors in Portscatho. Andy Day runs the shop with his son Tom and Saffy Williams, who is learning the trade. Roseland Online caught up with Andy.
How did it all begin?
“I left Cornwall in my teens to attend Smithfield College in London, returning to Cornwall after a couple of years looking for employment. I was taken on by Probus Pork running the butchery counter at their small supermarket. Whilst there I met Richard Turner who was renting the butcher’s shop in Portscatho from Stan and Rhoda Pomfret. After a while, it became clear that it was not what Richard wanted, and Stan and Rhoda wanted to sell the shop. So, in 1989 with interest rates at 17%, I grabbed the opportunity to buy the business. It really was a case of sink or swim!”
“There is a lot more regulation these days, mostly brought on by the BSE crisis (which peaked in 1993). There was a real worry at the time that the crisis could have killed off the meat industry in the UK. The industry rallied around and put in place a lot of new training. Those of us sensible enough to take advantage of this not only satisfied the Environmental Health Officers but regained the confidence of the public. I would say that the “rogues” of the meat trade have now disappeared. Butchers running small shops these days are around because they want to be there, not just wanting to make a fast buck!”
How have your customers changed?
“Probably the biggest change is I no longer have regular customers who shop every day of the week. When I first started out, I would see the same dozen local folk in the first hour, doing their daily shop. We do retain a good number of regular customers, that is partly testament to our ability to deliver what customers want. Gone are the days of customers regularly buying meat on the bone or in bulk – they want something ready to cook straightaway.”
“The biggest “high” is that after 30 years, I am still here! As for the “lows”, fortunately they have been few and far between. Of course, there was the BSE crisis. We also had a Foot and Mouth outbreak and also, although perhaps less relevant, the alleged salmonella outbreak in eggs (which brought about the downfall of Edwina Currie in 1988).
“Specifically in Portscatho, we had a situation not long ago when the Post Office closed and there were problems in the shop next door. This coupled with a down time at the pub and the local café being closed meant that the number of people using the village was falling. However, with new owners of all those properties and the opening of another new successful venture, things have turned around and the number of folk visiting the village has really buoyed again, and now pretty much all year round!”
Memorable moments in the shop?
“We have had a lot of laughs. I remember a particular customer who came in during the BSE crisis. Despite my protestations that it was safe to eat beef from my shop, they swore blind that they would never eat beef again. I told them that it was their prerogative. When asked what they wanted instead, they asked for 1lb of mince!”
What are the biggest changes on the Roseland?
“I think that biggest change has been the rising popularity of the Roseland as a place for second home owners and those buying to let their properties out as holiday homes. This has had a roll-on effect on my customer base. The upturn in supermarket shopping and the “supermarket delivery vans” does have an effect, but I respect that everyone has different shopping habits. We can observe, but cannot dwell on it! It is up to us to adapt if necessary.”
Life outside the business?
“Rugby is a huge part of my life. I used to play a lot of rugby which involved travelling all over the country. It was difficult to balance this with running a business – all I can say again it that I owe a great deal of gratitude to the youngsters working in the shop who were more than capable of running the shop on a Saturday morning! Now I am coaching Roseland RFC and have been for more years than I choose to mention!
“I recently took up cycling and rode to John o’ Groats from Land’s End with a Septuagenarian (the Isaac Tour)! It is also lovely to get out on the boat for a spot of fishing in the summer.
“Talking of the sea, I am also the Coastguard Station Manager in Portscatho which can take up a lot of time, whether it be out on a shout or training. With the help of Tom and Saffy, we always seem to manage everything and there is never a dull moment!”
What does the future hold?
“Well, apart from Eshcol, the local Nursing Home (!), our future is dependent on the people of the Roseland. We hope of course to keep the shop open and have tried over the years to adapt to the changing tastes of customer and will endeavour to continue to do so. Our future is really in the hands of the village.”
Any advice to young people?
“It comes back to all those youngsters who have worked so hard in the shop, if you are prepared to put in the graft, whether it be in this trade or another, you can be successful. But you don’t get anything out unless you put something in! All those who has been here are now in very good and interesting jobs, I feel proud to have been part of their adventure.”
I am sure you will all join Roseland Online in sending congratulations and thanks to Andy and best wishes for the future!
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