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Boult's celebrate with a double

Award-winning butchers so proud to be back in business

This year’s Tameside Business Awards proved a double delight for Stalybridge-based Boult’s Butchers. The family firm scooped two accolades, named B2C Business of the Year and Food and Drink Retailer of the Year at the glittering event held earlier this year and hosted at the Village Hotel, Ashton.

It was a fitting and much deserved double honour for John Boult and his family, having recently faced the devastation of a car ploughing into their popular butcher shop, resulting in huge damage to the premises.

Very fortunately no one was hurt in the dramatic incident, but the result could have had disastrous consequences for any small business.

Determined to re-open the establishment as soon as possible, John and his family have completely refurbished the shop, lamenting only that they were ‘out of work for 14 weeks’. I

n our latest ‘Tameside Talks Business’ podcast, host Dave Sweeton talks to John about the drama, the work undertaken to rebuild the business and exciting plans for the future. He also discusses the award honours themselves and why John considers them to be so very important, not simply for himself, but all businesses.

Dave also speaks with Tameside Business Awards founder Emma Marsh to explore the background behind the event, plus the development and growing popularity of the awards in only their second year. The podcast also provides a unique insight into just what award judges are looking for, offering all businesses some helpful hints for next time. 

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our town centres. But the huge pressures and challenges facing the high street have seen too many struggle to retain that vibrant, small business  offer.

‘Tameside Talks Buisness’ host Dave Sweeton knows of those challenges all too well. More than a decade ago he was directly involved with assisting an initiative to bring a butcher’s business back to Stalybridge.

Ultimately that business was Mettrick’s, the award-winning and well  established High Peak butchers testing the water at a series of farmers’ market pop-ups in Stalybridge back in 2012.

The incredible response to those markets and demand for a high quality, traditional butcher, was instantly apparent.

So it was that in 2013 John Mettrick opened a  branch of his own in Stalybridge, complementing the businesses he already had in the High Peak.

Five years on, as he looked to put plans in place for his own retirement, the Stalybridge shop was bought by John Boult, enjoying himself a strong association with Mettrick’s. As a result, Boults Butchers opened in 2018.

John explains: “I used to work for Mettrick’s in Glossop, so I was already familiar with the shop in Stalybridge and used to do a lot of prep work for the products they were selling.

“I previously had a butchery business too, so when the opportunity came along to take on the business in Stalybridge, I decided I would go for it.”

Boults is a proud family affair with John’s wife  and daughter both involved.

They were encouraged to enter last year’s inaugural Tameside Business Awards and, although they didn’t win then, John is keen to highlight the benefits of being a part of it.

“We made the final of the food and drink category last year. We didn’t win it, but it didn’t matter, because just by entering it made us raise our game anyway.

“We were a lot more focussed and we reaped the awards of that because the business improved. That’s why we entered again this year.”

John highly recommends that other businesses enter the awards too.

“Even if you don’t win, it makes you think differently about your business. You look for areas in your business where you can improve and you reap the rewards from that.”

AWARD DELIGHT: John, centre, celebrates success at this year's Tameside Business Awards with his wife and daughter.

But the family business and even their award entries were dramatically put on hold when a car crashed into the back of their shop in February, completely halting trading for three months.

Fortunately, after much hard work and following extensive repairs, Boult’s Butchers re-opened in May. The shop has been completely refurbished and virtually rebuilt, literally from the ground up, with almost everything replaced, from flooring, ceilings, electrics, plumbing and refrigeration systems.

In the podcast John shares the ‘traumatic’ experience of just what the terrible incident meant for the family and their business, forcing them literally to shut up shop at a time when they had literally been going from strength to strength.

“It was a very traumatic time,” says John. “It is not in our nature as a family not to work, we had all worked really, really hard to get the business to the position that it was in.

“Prior to the incident the business was doing fabulously and we had really grown. Christmas had been incredible and people were queuing outside the shop. In the New Year we got off to a great start too, which for a lot of people, especially in retail, can be a quiet few months, but we continued where we had left off at Christmas.”

John attributes the success to a number of elements, but primarily he says they had spotted a gap in the market when the cost of living crisis first struck. He explains that customers found themselves unable to afford to dine out as often as they might, but they still wanted to enjoy fine food, and so they turned to their local butcher to purchase high-end products.

“We were supplying high-end steaks and then we took it to another level with the introduction of a Himalayan Salt Chamber which age the steaks and we couldn’t keep up with  demand.”

This equipment, rather like a fridge, contains Himalayan salt bricks which draws moisture from the meat. After around six weeks of aging the result is, in John’s own words ‘superb’.

John brings a wealth of experience to the business after some 40 years in the trade and his knowledge and contacts means he can offer the very best locally sourced produce.

“Many of the suppliers I use, and I use very few, I have known for 25 years and they will work to a particular specification for me. As a ‘prized’ customer I get the very best meat. So I have consistent supply, the majority within just ten miles of the shop.”

Despite the challenges, there can be big advantages being a small independent, adds John.

“As an independent you can react much quicker, even to the weather. So for example if it’s sunny you can provide a very good barbecue offer because you can react instantly. Supermarkets can wait five days for an order, but I can order something now for tomorrow morning.”

Boult’s is presently pioneering a unique initiative which it is hoped will gradually breathe new life back into the high street. For John is directly helping young people gain business experience by enabling them to set up shop and operate their own concern within his own business.

“We provide an area within the shop for them and don’t charge anything. This gives them a chance to run their own business. We’re trying to widen the offer, providing space for a bakery and a fishmonger, just once a month. The payment for us is increased footfall.

“The only stipulation we have is that they are young people and the reason for that is that we are trying to keep the high street alive. That is only going to happen if we get new people in.

“Plus, in a cost of living crisis people, especially those who are young and just starting out, cannot invest in a premises straight away. So if we can get a few people off the ground, that will be great.”

John’s hope is that businesses up and down the country which might have a small space to offer, will do the same and roll out the idea.

 

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