Friday, 22 October 2021

Let's Get Down to Business: Barry Wagner of Gabriel Machin butchers

Let's Get Down to Business: Barry Wagner of Gabriel Machin butchers

BARRY WAGNER is the proprietor of Gabriel Machin, the family butcher in Market Place, Henley, which was established in 1910. He was born in Hammersmith but when he was four his family moved to Ashford, Middlesex. He left school at 16 and became a butcher. He lives in Ashford with his partner Vikki and has a daughter, Ellie, 18, and a 16-year-old son Alex, who works in the shop on Saturdays. Barry is a keen angler who loves deep sea fishing.

Describe your business

We are a family butcher with a large following of loyal customers. We sell a wide range of meat, fresh fish, poultry, game and cheeses. We have our own smokery where we smoke salmon, gammon, bacon, trout, duck and chicken. We also make a range of award-winning sausages and our sausage rolls are very popular. We also stock a variety of sauces and relishes, fresh eggs and even asparagus when it’s in season.

How many people does it employ?

There are five of us working full-time and two part-time.

How long have you been in the business?

When I was 17, I started working as a butcher for Ian Blandford, who owned Gabriel Machin from 2003 until he retired in 2015. At one time Ian owned seven shops and I worked in several of them. I acquired the business from Ian when he retired.

What was your objective?

For many years I had wanted to own my own shop. I had managed three of Ian’s shops before coming to work at Machins in 2004, so I jumped at the opportunity when Ian told me he wanted to sell up and retire.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

Although Ian has retired, I still talk to him regularly and he comes in when I go on holiday and at Christmas. We’ve known each other for many years and are great friends.

What would you do differently if you were starting again?

Nothing because I took on a successful business.

How is your business doing compared with last year?

I’m happy to say that it continues to grow year on year.

How do you market your business?

We support a few local charities which keeps us in people’s minds. We advertise in the Henley Standard from time to time and we also feature in some of their competitions by donating a turkey at Christmas, for example. We have a good website and a Facebook page.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

I am proud to own a shop that is so well known and supported locally. It has been here as a family butcher for more than 100 years and part of the building dates back more than 400 years. Festive events such as Christmas, Easter and the beginning of the barbecue season give me a really good feeling. They can mean hard work and long hours but are very rewarding.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Managing staff can be a bit of a challenge but we have a really good team and we all work together well. There’s lots of banter!

Where is your business headed?

I don’t see any immediate need to change anything but I’m always looking for new products.

How important are online sales?

We’ve just updated our website, which produces orders for products such as smoked salmon and bacon, and we do a delivery service.

What’s the secret of your success?

We thrive on quality with everything we do and provide. We aim for a consistently high standard. For example, we age our beef for four weeks. We also thrive on giving first class customer service.

What three qualities are most important to being a success?

Caring for your staff and giving them good training. Caring for your customers. Meeting your customers’ needs.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

How to treat staff. As the owner, I now appreciate some of the things that Ian did. We do have some staff outings occasionally. The next one is going to be a go-karting day.

What advice would you offer to someone starting a business?

Go for it!

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

None that I know of.

How organised are you?

Since taking over the business I’ve become very organised.

How do you dress for work each day?

As a butcher!

What can’t you be without every day?

Sharp knives and a cup of tea.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

I have lunch in the shop, upstairs in the staff room.

Do you continue to study?

You never stop learning. I’m always looking for new products and searching for new ideas.

What do you read?

I read the Henley Standard every week.

How are you planning for retirement?

I love to travel and I love to fish so I always fish when I’m on holiday and when I eventually retire that’s something I want to do much more of. My dream has always been to land an elusive blue marlin.

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