by Chris Tobin
“Barry the butcher” – Pleasant Point’s Barry Wilson – is calling it quits in the next few days after having operated his business in the town for 30 years.
“I’m not retiring,” he was quick to mention when interviewed this week – “we’ve just sold the business.”
“We” includes his wife Lynda, of whom he said, “you couldn’t get a better person to be a partner”.
Mr Wilson came to Pleasant Point from Greymouth with his parents at a young age, and attended Pleasant Point High School.
After leaving school he initially wanted to become a farmer but the prospects for farming in the 1970s and ’80s were far from rosy, so he undertook a butcher’s apprenticeship with Paddy Burrows in Geraldine.
“I loved it from the start – it’s a very good trade. It’s not taking a knife and slash, slash. There’s a lot more to it with so many different cuts.”
When he started in the trade corner butcher shops were still going strong but the expansion of supermarkets brought rapid change in the late 1980s.
“I came here to Point to Jimmy Friel, then I worked in the product development room at the freezing works [Smithfield].
“They went on strike and so I went to New World Save now.”
He was always keen to work for himself and the possibility arose when the Pleasant Point butchery was placed on the market.
“We took over on Labour weekend 1989 and have been here ever since.”
Taking on the business at a time when butchers were shutting up shop all around the country was a gamble, but it worked out.
“When we started it was only myself, an apprentice and my wife Lynda. We had to build it up.”
In the 1990s they added a home-kill section to their business, acquiring it from Steve Coe.
They expanded their premises, taking over a former chemist shop next door, and placed a chiller in the back and did the home kill at their site.
“We’ve now got a staff of four and clean-up staff plus me and the wife.
“It’s quite a big operation. We do restaurants and tourism has been good for us, supplying Tekapo.
“The locals have been good.
“One reason we survived is because we did what the customer wanted, not what we wanted.”
All meat was bought locally.
“Whole carcasses give you better-quality meat and we give cuts you can’t get in the supermarket.
“New Zealand has still got the best beef and lamb in the world are very good at producing good stock.”
Highlights had included having the same customers coming back, receiving compliments for the quality of their meat, plus finishing third in a national sausage competition.
He recalled a light-hearted moment came when a punter turned up at the shop with a cattle beast sprawled over the front of his tractor.
One outcome of selling up was not having to work seven-day weeks, something he had done for the past 25 years.
“In the early days I would work at night and have a few hours’ sleep and get up and away again.”
What is next for Barry the butcher?
“I don’t know yet. I might rear calves but I’m having a holiday and looking for something to do.”
This could be focusing on butchery alone, rather than also being a businessman.
“I’m quite happy to be a butcher. It gets into your skin.”