Address: 101A Koornang Rd, Carnegie VIC 3163
Phone: (03) 9571 2347
From an interview with Tom and Hailey that has been edited
Story contains images of animal carcasses.
(Hailey) The butcher as it is now started with Tom and Steve.
(Tom) It has been around since the 1950s but we took over in 1989 and changed the name. Steve passed away two years ago and I sold the business last year.
(Hailey) We are still an old traditional butcher. We only sell grass fed beef and, while a lot of shops order pieces, we take the whole lamb, the whole cow, the whole pig, and chop it down early in the morning. You know how they killed the animal, and where every cut comes from.
Have you tried meat in the butcher compared to meat in the supermarket?
Even though it might look similar, when you eat it, you can taste the difference.
(Tom) I came from Greece with my family, and I had to do something.
I didn’t go to school, and I started working at 16. I cleaned and washed dishes and, slowly, I learned the trade.
I had no ambition of being a butcher growing up, but I’ve been in the job for almost 50 years. I’m passionate about it, and it keeps me fit and healthy. Everything you do is hard at the start, but then you learn.
I work part time now, but I can do this with my eyes closed.
(Hailey) I came to Australia about 10 years ago.
My background is as an accountant, but I decided it was time for me to do something else. I didn’t expect to be a butcher when I took over the business but, along the way, I learned the trade from Tom. It’s such a different industry, but I really love customer service.
People know each other, like in a neighbourhood, and customers will come a long way specifically for us. Their children come, then their grandchildren and so on. It’s more fun than crunching numbers.
And Greek people always want very good meat. For example, a customer came in and ordered a half-body of meat for their family. Around 100 kilos. We cut it into small pieces for them, they put it in a bag, label it and use it for around 4-5 months.
They moved away because of property prices, but they come back and buy in bulk.
(Tom) We didn’t have refrigeration when we started.
We’d hang the meat inside, and nothing happened to anyone.
And my partner used to go to the Dandenong Market and buy livestock at the auction. They were busy years. You saw one body today, but it’d be five or six every Monday in the old days. It was flat out.
People don’t eat much meat now. They are scared of it. The sickness, cholesterol, getting old, everything. There used to be six butchers in Carnegie, plus the supermarket at the back, and we had a good relationship. There was no competition, as everyone had their own customers.
All the butchers, delis and fresh fish shops have closed here. Customers go to Oakleigh, get their groceries and they go home.
Nobody wants to be a butcher because there are too many long hours.
We used to start work at 2:30 in the morning, and finish at 9pm. We’d get $25, sometimes for the week! They’d say, “you want that much, or do you want to stay home?” We were young, we wanted to learn so we didn’t care.
There was no time to do anything else. I haven’t been on holiday for 20 years.
(Hailey) It’s because he loves meat.
(Hailey) Running a small business is very hard.
Wages are low, and everything is expensive, so people have less money to spend on things like meat.
And companies export meat overseas, but I have to say, “no, I don’t want this lamb because it’s too big, or too old. I want this and that,” and I have to pick carefully. If you go elsewhere, they might buy in very big quantities. We don’t, so the meat will be tender and tasty.
We have customers who are 90 years old, and they are very healthy and active. One of them makes his own honey on a small farm, brings it here and we have been selling it for 40 years.
He makes it for his family, a few others and us.
It’s very good quality.
(Hailey) We haven’t advertised much.
Our produce and our prices are good – and we have a strong Greek community who shop here – but not many people know about us.
So getting the word out is the main thing we need to do.
We need to find a way to survive.
Written by Aron Lewin with all photos by Tatiana C C Scott