A butcher who has worked in the same shop for 56 years is hanging up his apron for the final time today.
Jeff Gaunt, aged 71, first started work at Gaunts Butchers in Eckington when he was just 15 years old, learning the tricks of the trade from his dad Arthur who owned the shop.
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At that time, the Gaunt family reared their own animals at a nearby farm and carried out the slaughtering themselves.
Jeff took over the family business when he was 21 after the death of his dad and has continued to run the shop as a traditional family butchers ever since.
Over the years he has seen many changes, not just in butchery, but in Eckington too.
“The village used to be thriving, you could get anything you wanted here, but unfortunately over the years many businesses shut up shop,” said Jeff.
“Myself and French Ironmongers on Market Street are the longest-running businesses in Eckington. There have been many changes and some challenges over the years, but we’ve always come through them.
“I think we’ve survived for so long because people like to get their meat from a traditional butchers. While we don’t rear our own animals any more, we can tell customers exactly where the meat has come from, explain the different cuts and how to cook them.
“The cuts people choose and the prices have certainly changed since I started. At one point you could get a nice joint of beef for 10 shillings, now you couldn’t get an Oxo cube for that price.”
During his time at the shop Jeff has served three generations of families and has become somewhat of a character in the village.
But customers don’t just visit Jeff for a chat. The shop’s homemade sausages, dry cured bacon and English lamb attracts customers from places such as Dronfield, Killamarsh and further afield.
“I’m well known in Eckington, especially for having a bit of banter with the customers,” said Jeff.
“A journalist from America who was visiting the area 20 years ago did a story on me that appeared in the New York Times after being quite taken with me and the shop. I’ve seen customers grow up, get married, have children and the next generation of the family become our customers too.
“I like to make sure customers leave with an empty purse and a smile on their face.”
Jeff says chatting to customers is the most enjoyable part of his job and the bit he will miss most when he retires from the family business this afternoon.
He said: “When I was 65 my sons told me to take it easy but I love the job so I’ve continued until now.
“My boys are too clever to be butchers, so unfortunately the shop won’t be run by another family member but I’m going to lease it to a butcher who will continue to give our customers good quality meat.
“It was important to me to see the shop continue as a butchers. A few customers have had a cry since hearing of my retirement. I’ll certainly be sad to go but I’ll have more time to spend on my hobbies and with my family, plus I’m sure my wife has a list of things for me to do that will keep me busy for at least a year.”