Face2Face with Sarah Kelly, co-owner, The Village Butcher, Ranelagh.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in March of 2022.
Tell us about your business.
We are a family-run, gourmet artisan butcher shop in Dublin.
How has the last year been for you?
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The last year has been very busy, but stressful at times, like most during the pandemic. We saw huge growth, but struggled at times to keep up with the pace.
Tell us about your career so far.
I started work in my local butcher shop at 18, and everything was made in house, including all cooked products. I was always looking for ways to elevate it and bring the standards up. I moved around a bit – even moving to some bigger chain operations – but my heart lies in the small local business set-up. It’s the connection you get with the customer that just can’t be gotten elsewhere. I still love it and still have lots I want to learn, innovate, and bring to our customers.
What was your best professional decision?
To open my own business – I am no longer constrained by others. I’m very motivated, and a real we-can-find-away-to-do-it person.
Your most challenging moment?
The recession hit us badly, but it taught me lots of valuable business lessons. The pandemic has been hard also. Stress takes a terrible toll on you, mentally and physically. It can be hard to say no to a customer or to business, especially coming out of the recession, and I felt we had to take every bit of business that came our way, but I soon learned the value of my own time and the value of time off.
Your most embarrassing moment?
Not too many, thankfully! Slipping and falling in a full shop has to be one of them. Doing a radio interview and constantly tripping over my words. Seeing my first TV interview and realising I talk with my hands … ha! Maybe there are more than I thought!
What three attributes do you wish you had?
The main thing I wish I had more of is patience, although I find I am better now, as I am older and more experienced.
What is your favourite pub?
I love a trip into town, and I love a good, proper pub, with a blazing fire, cosy booths, etc. However, our local – Frehill’s, in Crumlin – is fantastic. It’s another familyrun business, which shows – lovely people, and friendly and personal service. My husband has been known to go up to the bar and come back with the remote for the TV.
What is your favourite drink?
I love a glass of red wine, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t love me so much any more. I’ve just started drinking gin, and I am enjoying all the different brands and mixers, fancy glasses, etc. Favourite holiday destination? I love to travel and consider it a real privilege, so I try to get to as many different destinations as possible. I very rarely visit the same place twice. As I work in a cold environment daily, I love a beach holiday. I try to take a city break once a year, and I particularly love travelling in Europe, soaking up the culture and local food.
What was your worst job?
My worst job was working in the deli of a local supermarket many years ago.
What was so bad about it?
It was all down to the manager – he was a horrible person who talked down to everyone, and was rude and aggressive. I left after four weeks. I just can’t get up in the mornings and go to work miserable. I need to be excited and passionate about what I am doing, and a bad manager can drain that out of an employee.
If you could do any other job, what would it be, and why?
I’m definitely a worker and a grafter, and I love the fast pace and pressure of retail. If I was the academic type, I would have loved to study the sciences, or the weather, maybe.
Do you have any pet hates?
Self-entitlement – there seems to be a lot of it out there at the minute. I find some people just don’t want to hear the word ‘no’ and can become very aggressive and downright hostile when they do.
The fictional character you most identify with?
Mary Poppins. I love to be organised and take no nonsense!
What is your business motto?
Keep moving forward.
The best advice that you ever received?
Pay yourself first.
Name one thing that you always have in your refrigerator.
Real butter – always Kerrygold.
Your recipe for a successful business?
Always be open to learning and build a good team, as you can’t do it alone. Attitude is everything – you can train people up, but it is very hard to change someone’s attitude, in my opinion. If someone is pulling against you and your core beliefs, they have got to go.
Are Irish people good customers?
Yes, although I can’t say they are any different to any other nationality, really. We get a great mix of nationalities here. Irish people do love the banter over the counter a bit more, though!
Your death-row meal?
Salt-baked cod, or lobster, or fresh scampi. I love seafood, probably because it’s not something I can cook very well, so I tend to order it a lot when I’m out.
What is the most enjoyable part of your career?
I set myself goals at the start of the year. I love looking back and seeing how much I achieved. I love watching the younger staff come in the same vein. Watching how much they have grown in confidence in their job and with customers from year to year is very satisfying.
What has been your biggest disappointment to date?
I’ve learned that failures are opportunities to learn and grow. I’ve made a few mistakes that were costly, but that is business. You have to take the risks, or you will stay static.
Complete this sentence: Nothing is more important than …?
Health and family. It has taken me a few years to find the balance, and I feel I work better when I keep perspective on the why and who I am doing this for.
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