In this age of online retailing and out-of-town superstores, shops that are truly local, exclusively family-run and bastions of reliability are becoming ever more rare.
So, it is with pride that C.Cassidy and Sons, independent butcher’s, of Hucknall, celebrates 30 years in business this month.
As popular as it was when first unveiled back in 1989, Cassidy’s has survived the domination of supermarkets and the advent of the digital revolution to remain as succcessful as ever.
“It has been a great business”, said satisfied owner Chris Cassidy, who runs the shop on Watnall Road with several members of his family. “For a little shop, nowhere near the High Street, we are doing pretty well.
“When I first took it on, there were 15 independent butcher’s shops in Hucknall. Now there are only three.
“But the future is looking great. The secret is to make everyone feel welcome, concentrate on quality products and keep moving with the times.”
It’s a meaty recipe for success that certainly has the customers coming back for more, and Chris has a treat in store for them to mark the 30-year milestone.
He said: “I have found an old Dispatch photo from our first week in the shop in 1989, and for a week, from Monday, February 25 to Saturday, March 2, we are going to match the prices of certain items in that photo.
“We will have to limit it to 1lb per person per day, but for that week, our own cooked ham will be 75p a quarter, minced beef £1.29 per pound and pork chops £1.65 per pound.
“It’s our way of saying thankyou to our customers. A lot of people who came into the shop 30 years ago are still with us.
“One of the highlights of our time here has been seeing different generations supporting us. Those who came in as kids with their mums and dads are now coming in with their own kids.”
Cassidy’s shop is steeped in butchery history. It dates back to the 19th century, and relatives of the original owner even travelled over from the USA about ten years ago to trace the premises.
In the mid-1960s, it was taken over by Harry Tongue, under whom 55-year-old Chris learned his trade and to whom he owes so much. He even bought Harry’s former house on High Leys Road, and still lives there with wife Lorraine.
Chris first joined Harry on leaving Holgate School after a spell as a ‘scrubber-upper’ with another Hucknall butcher, Derek Clay.
Pay wasn’t great, however, and after about two years, on a wage of £30 per week, he left to join the supermarket giants, Hillards. They had a store in Hucknall, but Chris became an area manager, covering parts of Yorkshire.
His career wheel turned full circle in 1989 when Harry Tongue’s shop came up for sale, and he took the plunge, paying just £15,000 for the business.
“I later bought the property itself as well, and it would be worth an awful lot more now,” said Chris.
“In fact, we spent £120,000 on a total revamp three years ago.”
That revamp followed the bleakest moment in the history of Cassidy’s when the business was fined heavily in court for breaching hygiene regulations. Inspectors found dirty equipment, stained aprons, risks of contamination and even an infestation of dead flies.
Chris recalled: “The shop was tired and old. We were waiting for planning permission to upgrade it, and I think the authorities ran out of patience.
“At the time, with all the bad publicity, it broke us as a family. But it was one of those things, and we had to move on.”
So well did the shop move on, and diversify, that trade rocketed by 40 per cent after the refurbishment. The introduction of a hot-food counter paid rich dividends, and all risk of cross-contamination was eliminated as Chris created two separate departments, one for raw meats, which he runs with sister-in-law Sandra, and one for cooked meats, run by his eldest son, Aston, 32.
Another of his sons, 23-year-old Mitchell, also works in the shop, as does wife Lorraine, mother-in-law Jean Gillott and Sandra’s daughter, Gemma, along with Angela Curran in a team of seven.
“We are one massive, happy family now,” said Chris. “You need that rapport with people, and we make everyone feel welcome.
“Everything we sell, we either make ourselves or source from local farmers and local producers. For instance, 90 per cent of our lamb is from Papplewick, 90 per cent of our pork is from Mansfield and our beef is bought out of Newark Market.
“The supermarkets might be able tempt people with their flashy prices, but we can definitely beat them on quality. And if you don’t have that quality, customers will not keep coming back. I like to think we do things right.”
Chris freely admits that when it comes to modern technology, he is the definitive dinosaur. He doesn’t even own a mobile phone!
But that hasn’t stopped the business moving forward to embrace change and, thanks to son Aston, Cassidy’s makes full use of Facebook to showcase the shop’s latest offers and to post photos and reviews.
“I’m a proper, old-fashioned butcher, but we keep introducing different things along the way,” said Chris. “When Aston started promoting us on Facebook, trade increased by 20 per cent.”
Cassidy’s Facebook page is also the place to go to find out what customers really think about the business.
John Maitland posted: “A great family shop. The quality of their produce is excellent.
Craig Tarpey said: “Amazing quality and tasty meat.” Sara Odell told followers: “Beautiful food and very friendly staff. I wouldn’t go anywhere else for my salad boxes and slimmer’s Scotch eggs!”
And Emma Jayne Taylor enthused: “Their food from the hot counter is always fantastic, and their cooked ham is the best I have ever tasted.”
Proof that, for the last 30 years, this particular butcher’s pudding has been in the eating.