Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Historic butcher‘s shop changes hands

THE owner of a historic Henley butcher‘s shop is handing over the reins after 14 years.

THE owner of a historic Henley butcher‘s shop is handing over the reins after 14 years.

Ian Blandford has sold Gabriel Machin to employee Barry Wagner in order to focus on his catering business.

The 55-year-old will still be based at the premises in Market Place but will provide hog roasts and barbecues for private  functions.

Mr Blandford, a lifelong butcher who trained at Smithfield Market in London, took over the business in 2001.

He previously ran six shops across the Home Counties but wanted to focus on a single one nearer his home village of Chinnor.

He has employed Mr Wagner for more than 20 years and the 40-year-old, from Staines, used to manage several of his old outlets.

Mr Blandford said he wanted a change of direction and there was growing demand for event catering. He said he trusted Mr Wagner to continue running Gabriel Machin successfully.

The shop sells a range of meats and fish including salmon, bacon and ham which are smoked on the premises. Lamb and pork are sourced locally while beef comes from Scotland and fish come from day boats on the south coast. In recent years it has won several regional trophies for its sausages and a British Pork Export gold award for its pork products.

It employs four full-time butchers — Dave Ridgley, Przemek Sztuba, Lukasz Janczarski and Ollie Cooper — and part-time driver John Taylor.

Mr Blandford said: “We‘ve done well by always meeting our customers‘ expectations for both our produce and our service. The most important things are keeping customers happy and giving our staff secure employment. The team have all been here a long time.

“My happiest memories are of serving our customers and looking after everybody‘s needs at Christmas. The late-night shopping in December is always good fun.

“I‘m very grateful for the support we‘ve had from people over the years and the personal connection we‘ve enjoyed with them.

“This shop is part of the community and I‘m glad that I‘ll still be based here as it‘s a big part of my life. I‘ve been very lucky. I know Barry shares my values and won‘t change anything unless it‘s for the better.“

Mr Machin took the shop over in 1881 though it had been a butcher‘s for at least 20 years prior to that. It passed out of the family‘s hands in the Thirties and before Mr Blandford bought it the owner was Colin Maret.

Mr Machin‘s descendants, who live across the country, no longer have a stake in the business but still like to know how it is faring.

Mr Blandford said: “He has got a great, great granddaughter living in Chinnor who I still speak with regularly. Another relative from Hampshire popped in during the regatta this year and was really happy to see it doing so well.“

Mr Wagner, who has not previously owned a business, said: “It has always been discussed that I would eventually buy the shop from Ian if I wanted. I was obviously interested because it‘s a successful shop with a fantastic, loyal customer base.

“I‘m excited and proud to be taking over but very pleased that Ian will be there to give any help I might need. It has been a pleasure working for him and we wish him all the best.“

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