Australia Fare Butcher: advancing a legacy
In six emotional and surreal months of 2016, Duane Williams lost his best mate and purchased his busy butchery.
He took ownership of Australia Fare Butcher which was developed by Barry Fitzgerald at Westfield Tea Tree Plaza from 1997. Duane was Barry’s trusty offsider there for 15 years. The Modbury shop flourished under their dual guidance and they became best mates.
Then out of the blue, Barry was diagnosed with an advanced tumour on his brain stem. He died within six months, in November 2016, aged 60. “Barry had time to sort out his affairs and he asked me to take over the business, saying he didn’t want to sell it to anyone else,” Duane says.
“He said he wanted the shop to continue; he said only I could keep running it like we had run it. “I didn’t know what to say; it was a big shock. I thought long and hard, taking a few months to eventually accept the offer to continue Barry’s legacy.”
Two years later, the business, staffed by eight, continues to tick along strongly, ideally placed next to a large Woolworths supermarket and close to a flash new food court.
“It’s hard work and there are always challenges, but we’re pleased that we took over,” Duane says. “We strive to produce consistently good products at consistently fair prices, backed by friendly, personal service. We want customers to receive exactly what they want and to walk away smiling. We never say, ‘Sorry, we don’t have that.’ We always offer an alternative.”
Duane’s wife Mel, heads a team of four servers in red shirts, distinguishing them from the four butchers wearing black. For Mel, it’s been a return to retailing after a successful career as a federal public servant, working as a property manager.
“It was a big decision to leave a good fulltime job with a car and superannuation but it has worked out well, allowing Duane to further his passion for butchering,” she says. “Having retail experience has been important; I didn’t know much about meat at the start but I’ve learnt to pick it up very quickly. “It's great to be working as a husband and wife team.”
The store’s huge range caters from customers of all types, from the young male barbecue set craving premium steak and gourmet burgers to older customers who want tripe, liver, ox tails, kidneys, brains and rabbits.
Duane says, “We are continuing Barry’s insistence of stocking speciality things that supermarkets don’t have. Older people want things like ox tails and ox hearts and come back for them; rabbit is now making a comeback,” he says. “We have suet for puddings, and we sometimes get in pig’s heads for people.”
“One bloke asked about huge turkey drumsticks for slow cooking. I chased it up and found I had to buy a minimum of five boxes of them for about $200. The customer said, ‘No problem, I’ll eat them all year long.’ So we keep them frozen here and he buys as he needs them.”
“It’s all about maintaining a reputation for customer service. We have a number of customers who have moved out of the area continuing to bulk buy.”
Mel says, “A man from Yorke Peninsula comes in every three or four months and spends about $1,800 each time. He comes to the counter and makes a selection; we vacuum pack much of what he buys in meal-specific amounts for freezing. We pack some things on trays. He’s big on barbecues and we cut him huge, double-thick steaks.”
But Duane says customers get the same high level of service no matter how much they spend. “Every Thursday, an older lady orders just two lamb cutlets and, boy, is she fussy about them!” he says.
Many years as a butcher have not dimmed Duane’s sense of satisfaction at exceeding customer expectations. “It’s great when someone says, ‘That was the best steak ever.’ It sends shivers down my spine and keeps me going,” he says.
Find Australia Fare Butcher on level 1, near Woolworths.
Words by Peter Morgan
Published in MBL News for the Master Butchers Co-operative Limited.