Stewart’s Butcher & Deli, Enniskillen

Like so many butchers, Shane Stewart learnt his craft from his father Gabriel who in turn learnt his trade from his uncle before him.

Back in 1979 a young Gabriel was living in Enniskillen during the recession and the Troubles and was looking to start his own business.

He rented premises but as in all recessions was finding it hard to get finance. Married with three young children, he decided to sell his car and bought a bicycle to raise some capital.

His son Shane got involved in the business at an early age – eight in fact – and he started using a knife at 12, something the Health & Safety crowd would surely shake their heads at today!

After 17 years of trading, Gabriel his son Shane and four other employees made the move to their new spacious premises on Church Street, Enniskillen.

In 2011, after almost 50 years of being a butcher Gabriel retired on Christmas Eve, leaving the family business in the very capable hands of his son Shane.

As Shane started learning the knowledge and skills of butchery as a young boy he recalls one of his first jobs was cutting the stew. Over the years he has learned from his father that you do not compromise on traditional butchery methods or quality.

Stewarts believe its customers deserve the best and that the company’s reputation relies entirely on customer satisfaction.

Shane describes Stewarts as a “traditional butcher that has always been forward thinking”. And it’s clear to see as today there are 20 staff employed at Stewarts, a delicatessen has been added and it is a nationally recognised award-winning butchersshop whose name is synonymous with tradition, quality and a family friendly service.

Investing in the business has been key and Shane has presided over the latest redevelopments at the front and back of store.

“In 2008 we converted one of the shop units at the back of the store into an area for processing; boning, making sausages and burgers, etc. Two years later we converted another unit into our own self-contained kitchen unit so we make all our deli products, ‘heat and eat’ range, pies, lasagnes, sausage rolls, Cornish pasties – we can make everything in house.”

The behind the scenes development helped the store to expand its product range and service.

Stewarts shop is famous for its extensive range of locally sourced meats.

Stewart's Butchers.

All the beef and lamb is Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assured, pork/ bacon and poultry is carefully selected and purchased from local family run farms and businesses.

The company changed it’s name to Stewart’s Craft Butchery and Delicatessen and Shane says this reflects the traditional and contemporary sides of the business.

Shane explained: “The word ‘craft’ relates to the fact that we are a very traditional butcher in the way we buy in our meat. We only buy in whole sides of beef, middles of pork, whole chickens rather than pre-cut meats. This ensures the quest for consistent quality and the craftsmanship of the butcher.”

He added: “The word ‘delicatessen’ was added as butchery is only part of our business. Deli has grown in 10 years from 10 per cent of sales to 40 per cent.”

The name change came about with the complete refit of the shop in 2013.

The re-fit took two and half weeks and Shane was able to keep the business open by temporarily using part of the processing space as a small version of the shop.

“During the refit we ran a loyalty scheme which meant that over the four weeks customers would have to visit eight times to get a voucher that they could spend in the new store. It worked very well and even though were down to an eight foot counter from our usual 50ft one we managed to hold on to 90 per cent of our turnover!”

The new store boasts a huge selection of products from traditional cuts of meat to high quality convenience products or customer to take away, heat and eat.

In response to customer demand and innovation the counter not only boasts the familiar meat products but a newly added game range – venison, partridge, pheasant, rabbit, duck, goose and quail, sourced from the local countryside.

The deli produces a variety of homemade foods from its own kitchen; freshly cooked quiches, pies, scotch eggs, salads, heat and eat meals as well as cold meats including Stewart’s prize-winning honey roast ham. The kitchen prides itself in using meat from the butchers and local suppliers for all other fresh ingredients.

The business has remained a family affair with Shane’s two sisters Aisling and Kirsty and brother Emmett assisting in the shop.

They, along with the other staff are fully trained to advise customers on recipes, cuts of meat and cooking times – something younger customers often avail of thanks to the influence of TV cookery programmes.

“The dawn of the celebrity chef has seen more younger people coming to the shop,” said Shane.

Stewart's Butchers.

“As the chefs are cooking things that you may not find in a supermarket, we find them coming in looking for certain cuts or meats.”

Supermarkets, like in many towns are an issue for local businesses and Enniskillen is saturated with 24-hour Tesco, 24-hour Asda, Lidl, M&S, Iceland so

Stores likes Stewarts have had to develop to become one-stop shops.

“Once the multiples came to town, we suffered badly so we had to do something different,” explained Shane, which is why Stewarts has been had a healthy deli for the past 15 years. The store has also been supplying pre-packed meat to convenience stores for the past 25 years and now supplies 18 in the local area.

Progression is something all good businesses experience and success is the outcome of plenty of hard work so it was only fitting that Shane and the team were crowned Butcher of the Year at the 2014 NR Awards.

Looking ahead, Shane and the team will continue to invest in the business and will focus on new branding and packaging for Stewarts own range of products.

The butchery sector is hugely competitive in Northern Ireland but one thing Shane is determined to be is a cut above the competition.

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