Barry's Meat Market: as one door closes, two open!

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Saturday 26 May will see Barry's Meat Market, the mainstay of Woodgrange Road's retail offer, close its doors for the last time - but other portals are opening soon!

As a thank you present to his loyal local customers, Barry will have a marquee at the back of the shop on the day, with a barbecue and drinks for them, between noon and 5pm. You are welcome!


Barry's - end of an era on 26 May 2018
The closure is a prelude to the redevelopment of the shops and flats above 39a - 49a Woodgrange Road, to make way for the construction of 77 new flats on the site - and the opening of a large Lidl supermarket (see here, for details).

Three of the shops on the terrace have already moved south down the road (Khan, the halal butcher, Medinah's dry cleaners and Fancy Curtains), and the painted-over windows suggests that Gregg's has already sold its last local sausage roll.

Barry's is migrating too - but to the 21st century and the web!  More of that later.


Barry, as his customers will remember him
 - a cheery face in his butcher's overalls
Barry Parsons was born in Walthamstow in 1969 and opened his first butcher's shop on Woodgrange Road, with family help, as a youngster in 1985. It was in a small shop, next to Santander (in what later became Fancy Curtains), which had originally been opened as part of the family business in 1982. Due to family illness it closed temporarily in 1984 until Barry stepped in, the following year.

His dad, a bus driver, and granddad, a butcher,  opened the first in the line of family shops (the title family butcher's always seems somewhat sinister!)in Lea Bridge Road in 1970. The name above the door was Parson's - and it remained so until about five years ago. The shop was later moved to Walthamstow High Street, and it is today run by Barry's cousin and trades under the name of Norfolk's.


Barry arranging the carcasses
in the cold store room. Five star
rated for food hygiene and cleanliness
Barry's older brother, Jeff, meanwhile opened his own butcher's, the Cookery, in Stoke Newington High Street, 40 years ago - where he is still in business with it. Barry started working with Jeff and after three years, branched out on his own, to his first Woodgrange Road shop - 41b, in 1985.  Three years later he moved to his very familiar corner shop.

Barry's opening, initially trading
under the family name of Parsons
And, of course, he's seen many changes, over the years.  When he started there were seven butcher's on the street, including a Dewhurst's an AA Fisher's and a Manor Farm Foods. Since that time the shop has faced many challenges: the rise of supermarkets and pre-packed meat, the impact of convenience and take-away food, the emergence of halal competition locally and the rise of vegetarianism - all of which have hit the traditional butcher's trade.


Early shop displays at Barry's - above and below
One of his biggest challenges, however, came from an unexpected source; Thames Water.  Readers will remember when the land outside his shop was dug up for almost three years, as major work was undertaken on the main pipes and sewerage systems below.  This hit his trade badly, as customers found difficulty in accessing the shop - and others simply assumed it had closed.  Sales dropped by about 60% during the works and it took Barry many months to extract compensation from Thames Water for the damage it had done to his trade.

Barry's has survived, because he has moved with the times. A look inside his shop shows that the stock caters for the meat tastes of most of the local nationalities who have settled locally; and his staff, ethnically, almost mirror the community they serve. His motto is - listen to your customers, and give them what they want - in short, the cornerstone to all successful retailing.

It's a hard life as a butcher.  Barry, who now lives in Waltham Abbey, is up five days a week at 3a.m. to get to Smithfield for 4, each day.  He's back at his shop, fully loaded up with meat between 5.30 and 6 each morning. It's then cutting and preparing time, before doors open at 9.
 
It's usually 6.30pm before the shop is cleaned up and ready to close for the night.  Work "in the office" then begins for Barry, as he begins making his orders for the following day and balancing the books, before he can shut down for the night, and grab 4 hours sleep, before the schedule begins again.

When a bad accident to his arm kept him away from his shop, about three years ago, Barry began experimenting with new business models - and that has prepared him well for his future in the trade.


Above and below - Barry and staff at
work in the preparation cold rooms,
at the back of the shop

He has had little choice but to move his business from Woodgrange Road on, as his lease has been run down, and the freeholders have sold the row of shops and premises behind them for redevelopment.  He has tried to maintain a local presence - making an unsuccessful bid to take over another shop on Woodgrange Road, and has also acquired premises further up - near the fish supermarket, to redevelop as a butchers'. Difficulties with the planners - now resolved - however, have meant that it would be 18 months before he could trade from there.

So - the business models he learned from his time away from the butcher's block have come in very handy. He started and developed a wholesale meat business, working with a chain of Lithuanian butchers, which is prospering. 

This augers well for the future. He also started, by way of an experiment, a high end, on-line, butcher's shop.

This has been revamped, and will be relaunched as The Luxury Meat Box Co (www.TheLuxuryMeatBoxCompany.co.uk) in June. He will also be continuing to operate - on-line - as Barry's Meat Market (www.BarrysMeatMarket.co.uk), where he will offer a four day a week delivery service to Forest Gate, and his local customer catchment area.


The Luxury Meat Box Company - reading
and waiting for your on-line orders
Barry's on-line will be available from Tuesday 29 May - there will not be a day of lost trading, after the physical shop closes! The company's website even has the feel of Barry's shop about it - with the signage and colouring.

Barry's will offer next day (Tuesday - Friday) delivery, free of charge (subject to a £15 minimum order) to the Forest Gate area.  It will sell the same range of stock currently available, in the shop, and customers will be able to order on-line from photos of items and an easy to access ordering system on the website.  Enhancements to prepared-meat quality are being developed, as the stock will become gluten-free and contain no additives.


A seamless local service from Barry's.
Food delivered to your door from early next week!
The Luxury Meat Box Company will be aimed at the Ginger Pig, Borough Market- and other high-end butcher's chains' customer bases. Barry will be offering luxury products at affordable prices. The meat will be sourced from a range of farmers with whom he already has business dealings, together with existing Smithfield specialist suppliers.

There will be Rare Breed,  Angus, English Longhorn and British White beef; free range Gloucester Old Spot pork; Salt Marsh Lamb and Packington's free range chickens, among other delights, available.

The meats will be dispatched four days per week, on the day of sourcing - with next day deliver,  via DPD,  guaranteed.  It will be delivered  in carefully- sourced containers and packed in ice that will keep the meat cold for four days, from despatch. The service will be nationwide - and delivery will be free for orders in excess of £60.

Barry now lives in Waltham Abbey and has taken over an industrial unit there, which is currently being converted into a customised, cold storage butcher's unit. All of the preparation of meat - collected from farms and Smithfield - will be undertaken and despatched from there. Work is still being undertaken on preparing this unit. Until then, Barry will take over a temporarily vacant premises at Smithfield for his preparation work.


Above: staff at work, cutting meat for
 the customers, and below - impressive
 display cabinets of prepared meat

Barry currently employs six staff - four of them will follow him into the new 21st century butchery business, leaving behind many happy memories of their time on Woodgrange Road - including one last fling, as on-watchers to a new movie. Three weeks before the shop closes, it shut for one additional day, to become a film set for a movie, staring Helen Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen.


Lights, camera, action: temporary rebranding,
for filming in early May, as Rastakovski's
The fascia board name was changed to Rastakovski, a Polish butcher' set at the turn of the 20th/21st centuries. The film, The Good Liar, will be released by Warner Brothers next year. Helen Mirren wasn't on the set of the day of shooting, but McKellen and Jim Carter (butler from Downton Abbey) were.


Ian McKellen and Jim Carter
awaiting the call for action
The film plot starts of simply: Ray Courtney (played by McKellen) meets a well-to-do widow, Betty McLeish (Mirren), with a view to conducting an on-line swindle.  The intentions go awry when Courtney falls for McLeish, and the drama begins ...

As Barry says, the movie will be something to show his grandchildren and tell them of his times on Woodgrange Road.

So - farewell - and a swift hello to Barry, as he moves from the physical to the on-line local butcher!

4 comments:

  1. I wish him well and hope he returns, other than a virtual presence, in the not too distant future

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well done to Barry for keeping the business going. You'll be sorely missed so come back soon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Barry u and ur staff will be miss please come back to forest gate good customer service ❤

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  4. Barry and staff, it has saddened my heart to know you're not coming back..... I have known Barry's my whole life in Foresgate. After 10 years.... what are we going to do without you!!! I dearly miss all of you.... Hope there will be a door for you to come back.... It's hard to say goodbye

    ReplyDelete

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