Young blood for city's oldest butchery

Young blood for city's oldest butchery

TESS MCCLURE
Last updated 14:00 25/01/2014
willert
YOUNG BLOOD: Lisa Willert was just 23 years old when she bought Everybody's Butchery.

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One of Christchurch's oldest butcheries has had an injection of young blood. TESS McCLURE visits the new owner of Everybody's Butchery.

Lisa Willert was just 23 years old when she bought Everybody's Butchery.

With a passion for sausages, Willert began butchery training in Germany at 16, and emigrated to New Zealand three years later to complete her training and "see some more of the world".

When she approached Everybody's Butchery owner Graham Robinson for a job, he turned her down, saying he was looking to sell the place and didn't want to take anyone on.

Willert offered to buy the butchery off him instead, and he agreed.

Robinson, who ran the butchery for 32 years, still buys his meat from Willert.

"It needed someone younger to take it over and take it forward," he says.

"I was reluctant to expand and stayed as traditional as possible.

"It probably needed to change, but at the same time it's about maintaining the traditional things, which Lisa does."

Established in 1906, Everybody's is one of the city's oldest butcheries, and has always operated out of the same Selwyn St shopfront.

When she bought the place, Lisa was committed to keeping up the traditional elements while bringing in a few more modern features - including eftpos, which Robinson had avoided.

The business model, for Lisa, is simple: know your customers, and supply good meat.

Despite owning the butchery for just seven months, Lisa appears to know the name of every person who walks through the door. Most leave carrying bratwursts or pork chops wrapped in greaseproof paper, but others will pop a head in just to say hello or drop off a handful of Central Otago cherries.

When you're a small business, Willert says, a loyal customer base is key to your survival.

She has no worries about being squashed by supermarkets or large butcher chains.

"If you have better products than a supermarket, and your customers are super-happy with your products, they will tell other people," she says.

"Everyone spreads the word and we get new customers day by day."

Butchery has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, with the first two female butchers in NZ receiving training only in 1978.

Women are still a tiny minority in the industry, with an estimated two per cent of the country's butchers female. Willert was the only female in her class, and was turned down for jobs when managers said a woman couldn't lift the heavy carcasses.

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She is happy now to be running her own place, but agrees that it is tough work.

Aside from a cleaner, Willert works alone, for 12-hour days, five days a week.

Much of the work is done manually, and the butchery still breaks down all its meat from carcass, the traditional way: grinding the sausages, curing the bacon, and smoking the biersticks.

She estimates she would send 400kg of specialty meats out the door every week.

Over Christmas, she worked 220 hours in two weeks - starting each day at 4 am, and finishing around midnight. For Willert, it's all part of the job.

"We had to get those hams done," she shrugs.

It's hard work for a young entrepreneur, but Willert has no intention of leaving.

- The Press

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