By Vicky Edwards
Formerly a pupil of Parklands Community Primary School, you could say that Anthony hasn’t had to go far to find a career that he loves. Situated just across the green from his old school, Penfold Family Butchers forms part of a well-supported local parade of shops on the Parklands Estate.
“I started here part time as a kid of eleven and came on full time when I was sixteen,” he told me. “I trained on the job, learning from the masters. It has become a passion and I love the variety.”
Established by Malcolm Penfold in 1971, Malcom and his brother Gordon, Anthony’s stepfather, ran the shop with a determination to provide great quality, competitive pricing and first class customer service. It is a philosophy that remains at the heart of the business today.
“Our beef, lamb and pork comes from Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey. People really look for quality with meat these days and it’s a big myth that butchers are more expensive [than supermarkets]. As for our sausages, we make them on site and our recipe hasn’t changed since we began. People love them,” Anthony told me proudly.
Being part of a community is something that the shop benefits from. As well as a loyal customer base drawn from the estate, the close proximity of two local schools also boosts trade.
“We have two school runs a day and people often pick up meat for their evening meals, but because we have easy and free parking customers do travel come from further afield too. Knowing our customers and valuing them is really important to us.”
Certainly greeting customers by name seems to come as standard, and a bit of banter, delivered with a smile and a twinkle, are always on offer from the boys in the blue-and-white striped aprons. They are also a great source of inspiration and knowledge with recipes and cuts. Not sure how to get the best crackling on your pork? Need an idea for a cheap midweek stew? Want to know how to cook a pheasant? All questions are cheerfully and comprehensively answered.
“Game is really popular at the moment, especially venison,” said Anthony, “and with Christmas coming people are already ordering turkeys. Sometimes they’re unsure about what size bird they need or how long to cook it for, but working that out for them is part of the service and we are happy to help.”
Brandishing an alarmingly large meat cleaver for the benefit of the camera, he tells me that there has been particular growth in the student market.
“They can buy just two sausages or a single chop if they want, but they know that they will be best quality.”
What would he take home and tuck into, given the choice?
“A ribeye steak,” he answers immediately. “Cooked medium rare, so just three minutes each side. Delicious!”
I think I need to wangle myself an invitation to dinner…
More information: www.mjpenfold.co.uk