Paul Greaney's award-winning sausages have been the talk around every local barbecue this summer.
His Village Pork sausage beat more than 450 entries to take out the Supreme Award at last year's Devro New Zealand Sausage Competition.
Since receiving the accolade in October, The Village Butcher has struggled to keep up with customer demand.
The Havelock North butchery went from producing 15 kilograms of the pork sausages a week to selling three tonnes in the three months leading up to Christmas.
The award gave the business a significant boost.
Shoppers were coming in to try the pork sausages and would often come back for more barbecue meat and Christmas hams. Turnover rose by about 35 per cent.
"The risk of putting ourselves out there to be judged really paid off."
The competition was judged by mystery shoppers.
"They expect us to sell the perfect sausage, not just make a batch and send it off to them," Mr Greaney said.
He and his wife Mere bought the business in June 2012. Mr Greaney, who was managing the butchery at Hastings New World, was warned that the once-prosperous shop had been run into the ground.
"I thought I'd have a look at it anyway because I'm always on for a challenge."
He was confident he could turn the business around but after the dust settled he realised the situation was worse than first thought. The turnover was less than half than what was recorded on the books for the sale.
The couple stripped the inside of the store and updated the interior. It was another blow when the renovations exceeded their budget by 60 per cent.
With higher than expected start-up costs and less capital coming in, it was a nervous few weeks for the Greaney family.
"When your first day trading is less than $200 and you need $6000 a week to break even, you get very nervous, to say the least." Fortunately, friends and family were only too willing to share their business advice.
"It's important to have good people behind you, without them I wouldn't be here," Mr Greaney said.
The couple took the time to get to know their customers and every month things got better.
It wasn't about profit in that first year, but building trust, Mr Greaney said.
Six months later, they needed to hire a second butcher. Their newest butcher, Alex Harper was named young butcher of the year for the lower North Island last year.
"It cemented customers' trust in that we were butchers that knew what we were doing."
The Village Butcher uses free-range meat only - because animals who move around more have more flavour, Mr Greaney said.
Although many people go to the supermarket for their meat, consumers are willing to pay for quality and service.
The Greaneys will focus on consolidating and building a stable foundation for their business in the next few years.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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