By RYAN TAYLOR
Efforts to reverse the decline of butcher shops in Lerwick will soon bear fruit with the opening of a new retail outlet.
South end farm operators JK Mainland are planning to reopen the premises vacated by James S Smith Butchers, which closed its doors for the last time in January after going into liquidation.
Its departure left the Globe in Commercial Road as the sole butcher shop for the town – something those who remember the time when Lerwick had 13 butcher shops found particularly galling.
The new development, made possible following a £45,000 loan from the council’s development committee, will create three full time jobs and promises to help maintain the commercial status of the town centre.
A family venture, the business comes as a partnership between farmer Ronnie Obern, his wife Heather, son Kevin and brother-in-law Mark Mainland.
Mr Obern said the new shop’s unique selling point would be to concentrate on promoting food that has been produced locally.
“We already have a small farm down the south end of the Mainland and we supply a lot of Shetland with fresh vegetables.
“It’s very hard to get extra land and the only way we could expand the business was through a butcher shop supplying our own lamb directly to the customer.
“We’ve been finishing lamb for a couple of years now, and Kevin [Obern] thought it would be an ideal way to go direct to the customers.”
JK Mainland does not produce its own beef, but Mr Obern said the business would be happy to source beef and other produce from outside the farm.
The main criteria is that the food will be sourced from local producers.
“The aim is to sell nothing but Shetland produce, even if we don’t produce it all ourselves. What we don’t produce ourselves we are going to try and source from elsewhere in Shetland.
“We’ve done a little bit of market research, asking folk on the street about it, and over the couple of days we’ve been here the feedback has been tremendous.
“We are pleased to have received financial backing from the council to open the premises and sell traditional butchers’ produce alongside fresh local vegetables.”
He said the venture would not only create new employment in the town, but also safeguard the jobs on the farm.
Although the family is eager to open the shop once again, Mr Obern said it would be a number of weeks before customers could start coming through the door.
“There’s no point in just papering over the cracks. We want to get the place sorted out properly.”
While the Oberns have bought the old Commercial Street shop, the deal does not include the separate property which used to serve customers in Commercial Road under the old James S Smith banner, as that building was rented from a private landlord.
Chairman of the development committee Josie Simpson added his support to the new business venture “It is good to see a new Shetland partnership come together in business and bring quality local produce directly to the Shetland public,” he said.
James S Smith was closed down by Orkney-based owner Graham Henry of farming company G&A Henry, who bought the premises in 2006 from former butcher Alex Wiseman, who retired after 26 years of owning and running the business.