A. Laverack & Son. From family butcher to family empire.Featured Business 27 March 2019
They must be doing something right: this immaculate little butcher’s shop on the High Street, Holme-on-Spalding-Moor has been trading here for 150 years. Enough time to gain a considerable reputation for care, quality and the highest respect for animal welfare. As well as supplying exceptional beef, lamb, pork and poultry, the addition of a bakery 25 years ago meant the Laveracks were able to utilise their own excellent meat for the baking of pies: pies that quickly became as famous as their other exceptional fare. We talk to manager Amy Laverack and her father Tim to find out what makes this fifth generation family business tick.
Holme is where the heart is
The famed butcher and baker has two shops in Holme-On-Spalding-Moor as well as a booming wholesale division. It’s a family empire that reaches across the region, supplying some of the area’s best restaurants and hotels.
Inside the recently refurbished branch, the earthy smell of dry-aged beef mingles with fresh baking. Is it lunchtime yet? At the counter, the glass cabinet is filled with beautifully prepped meat and poultry ready for the day’s trade. It’s a sight to see. Great tomahawks of ruby-red forerib, marbled with the yellow fat of grass-fed beef. Huge whole chickens, criss-crossed with strips of streaky bacon. Gleaming chicken breasts studded with peppers, tomatoes and cheese. All fresh. All local. From behind the counter emerges the man himself: Tim Laverack. A no-nonsense sort with a nonetheless friendly manner, Tim’s love of his trade is clear as he takes time to chat.
The business is 150 years old. How did it get its start?
“A. Laverack & Son was started by my grandfather’s grandfather – right here on this spot.” says Tim. “At first he was a cattle trader, buying and selling locally, but he soon moved into slaughtering and then butchering.” Tim goes on to mention his own involvement in judging cattle for local competitions – it’s clear that the family’s connection to good animal husbandry persists through the ages.
What is the best and worst thing about being a business owner?
“It’s all you: you are in charge and in control: master of your own destiny,” says Tim. “It’s also nice to be able to help provide a living for others. Walking down the yard and hearing my staff laughing as they work is the best feeling in the world. As I often say to them, you spend the majority of your life at work, so if you don’t enjoy it then what’s the point?”
And the worst thing? “Well, by the same token, the responsibility you have as an employer. You are in control of other people’s livelihood and that can be a weight to bear, especially should you hit a bit of a slow patch.”
What’s the best thing about being a family business?
“The connection to the past and future: a sense of being able to foster something special that will outlive you.” says Tim. “Watching it grow from generation to generation and seeing the way it changes and progresses under your care.”
Why should we come to you rather than a supermarket?
“Because we offer more than food: we offer knowledge” replies Tim. “ Knowledge of your food. We can tell you where it’s from and how it was prepared. Plus of course, you are enjoying a quality product that’s travelled no further than seven miles … as fresh as it can be.”
What’s the most important thing your father passed on about the trade?
“Buying quality” says Tim. “My father’s most often given piece of advice was ‘You get what you pay for’. It’s my job to ensure that everything that goes over that counter is the very best it can be, at a reasonable price.”
One for Amy, is there a difference in approach or are you a chip off the old (butcher) block?
After a polite laugh at our Dad joke, Amy replies: “There’s a slight difference but we work together well. As we move into the fifth generation, I’m keen for us to be moving gently with the times, bringing butchery and baking into the 21st century. We’ve invested a lot in a sausage roll machine because it brings efficiency with no loss of quality: in fact, because the technology controls the variables to such a degree, we get a better, 100% consistent result.
What advice can you give to someone who has just become a business owner?
“Know where you are with your outgoings so there are no surprises. Ensure from the very beginning you have a good understanding of all fixed costs. That’s the one most people learn the hard way” says Tim.
What is something about butchering most people don’t understand?
“Making the most of the animal so that nothing is wasted is an art form.” says Tim. “There are obviously the prime cuts that everybody wants to buy, roasting joints and steaks. But what about the rest of it? How you ensure the animal is fully utilised is the skill of a good butcher.”
What would you do with an extra hour in the day?
“Serve more customers.” Amy replies.” “Can we have it in the morning?” adds Tim “That’s when we’re really busy. An hour in the morning is worth two in the afternoon.”
Tim, you are involved in judging cattle: how does this passion help you?
Tim thinks this over and replies “It helps to have that broad understanding of the product you are buying in. Knowing the different cuts and what is going to be prime to sell. Being connected to the whole process is what sets us apart. I like to think it always will.”