Winning against all odds
Published:  17 February, 2006

Though he refers to himself as being semi-retired, Paul Walker is kept busier than most overseeing the running of his four shops

, situated in Long Eaton, on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border; Ripley and Ilkeston in South Derbyshire: and Clifton near Nottingham. Speaking from his Long Eaton shop, run by his Manager Dave Sheldon almost since its inception in the early 1070's, he said that over the years it had been necessary to double the size of the premises to cope with increasing demand.

"Today, with the two superstores, Asda and Tesco competing for business, trade is not quite what it was, but the rising population of the town means that we are holding our own. We have a staff of 12 full and part-time who are in the trade, not just for the money, but because they love the life".

The friendliness of the local people has a lot to do with that. Long Eaton, which is seven miles from Nottingham and nine miles from Derby, sprang into prominence in the middle of the 19th century following the building of the Erewash Valley Railway line. The railway industry was a principal employer as also was the lace trade, but for many years now there has been a diversification of industries.

Nearby there are many small towns and villages coming under the umbrella of the Erewash Borough Council, and people from Sawley, Sandiacre, Draycott, Breaston and Risley use the local bus service to do their shopping in Long Eaton. What makes Paul Walker's butchery a regular port of call is its central position, a pedestrian crossing outside the door and, most important, a reputation for quality built up over 33 years. "Added to that," said Paul, "We are £2 a kilo cheaper than the supermarkets on many of the lines and we have the edge on our competitors for choice of product". All Paul's suppliers are locally based and are of long standing.

He is particularly proud of his prime topside, home-made sausages and lean pork steaks. The beef burgers - four for a £1 are a firm favourite with people of all ages. Paul, who was introduced to the trade at the tender age of nine by his father, a manager with Baxters of Stratford on Avon, who taught him to make sausages. He later became a manager himself for Baxters. "I had a break from the trade when I was called into the RAF as a two year National Service man and stayed for five years."

It's more than 20 years since Paul served in the Long Eaton shop on a regular basis, but many customers from those early days are still regulars, and he knows them all by name. There have been three complete refits over the years. The freezer has been replaced four times and there have been eight new refrigerators. In addition, the floor space for customers has been increased to 30 square metres and the length of the counter extended.

"It's all about making the customers feel more comfortable and making them feel welcome. Our staff are well trained and reliable and always ready to give advice when needed."

Prior to 1972 when Paul took over the Long Eaton shop there was a demand for one side of beef, three pigs and four lambs each week. After six months this was increased substantially. He believes in advertising and at certain times of the year, notably Christmas and the summer time barbeque season the shop does special deliveries.

Last Christmas fresh meat hampers were offered at 1995 prices. Very popular were those at £50 containing such mouth watering items as turkey, prime cut topside joint, traditional cut leg pork, bacon, sausages and pork pie.

At the top end of the scale were the Christmas freezer hampers at £170, containing everything from pies to beef burgers and to a full range of beef joints, rump steak and prime topside.

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