In this week’s Farmer Focus, That’s Farming, speaks to Paul Tobin Butchers about the long-standing family tradition, acquiring and expanding the business, and navigating through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Paul Tobin Butchers, 3 Abbey Road, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, are “traditional butchers with a modern twist”.
Butchering is a long-standing family tradition, which traces its roots to Paul’s grandfather’s time.
William Tobin emigrated to Maryland in the United States in his earlier years, where he worked as a butcher and a chef before returning to Ireland in the late 1920s.
Upon returning, he bought the home farm in Lisnatubrid, Slievenamon, Co Tipperary. It was a humble beginning, purchasing just 19-acres of hill land to begin.
The farm now spans 100-acres overall after Paul and his father, Billy Tobin, expanded the enterprise from the original 19-acres. Coupled with the original holding, the family has 25-acres on the outskirts of Clonmel within the Clonmel Borough.
The farm comprises 65 dairy cows and followers, along with some Angus and Limousin cattle – some of which they sell through their shop.
“This year, we are focusing on breeding more Angus and Hereford cattle. The heifers will be destined for our own trade. We strive to provide the best possible grass-fed farm to fork beef for our loyal customers,” Paul told That’s Farming.
Paul started his career in butchering when he was just 16-years-old. Since then, he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge in the field between butchering and extensive farming experience, enabling him to handpick the best produce around.
Paul and his son, Billy, worked in this butcher shop on Abbey Road for over six years until 2018, when the opportunity arose for Paul to buy the business himself.
Since purchasing the premises, the Tobin family has worked tirelessly to expand the firm to what is one of the busiest bustling businesses around.
Popular ranges and team
The family has perfected traditional methods and blended them with new ideas, keeping up-to-date with modern trends and new creative ideas for their range of meats.
They have their beef and lamb slaughtered with Neil Tynan in Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny.
“We have made the shop into a bigger, and better butchers, including adding a new 18ft serve over and a cooked range after hiring a chef,” Paul explained.
“In this range, we have our ever-popular home-cooked pies, which fly off the shelves and cooked only using top-quality ingredients. Our chef, Shane Ryan, is a close friend and a neighbour.”
Involved in the running of the business are Paul, his wife, Sadie, and two of his children, Billy and Julianne. “So we can safely say it is very much a family-run affair,” he added.
“Our team, as we like to call it, comprises of Paul, Billy and Julianne Tobin, as well as Martin Keating, Shane Ryan and Padraig O’Neil.”
“We strongly believe we have the best team of people around and would like to give them a special mention for how hard they work and the huge addition they are to the business.”
“Martin and Padraig are master butchers with a wealth of experience in butchering, and we are lucky to have them. Brother and sister duo, Billy and Julianne Tobin, are always front of house.”
“They serve our loyal customers and love the customer service role and butchering with the rest of the fantastic team. Chef, Shane Ryan, juggles cooking with butchering and loves the combo.”
Dry aging and dry curing
The family has an intense interest in dry aging beef as Paul’s extensive experience as a butcher for forty years brings a wealth of knowledge in producing the best possible beef for their customers.
Also, they dry cure their own bacon and cut their famous thick-cut dry-cured rashers by hand, which frankly, “we cannot keep cut”, Paul revealed.
Besides, they have also become notorious for their dry-aged striploin steaks and Tomahawk steaks, as well as Rib Eye steaks.
“We pay special attention to these steak cuts by having a dedicated walk-in fridge to dry age these on the bone before they are boned out and by our expert butchers and cut to our customer’s liking.”
“These are not just showcase cuts in a small dry ager; we dry age all of these all the time.”
Their main objective is threefold. Firstly, they strive to provide the best possible quality meats for their customer base.
“Secondly, we are obsessed with customer satisfaction and customer service. This is made easy for us; however, because of our fantastic neighbours on Abbey Road and the people of Clonmel and the surrounding areas.”
“We aim to get to know our customers and create lasting relationships and friendships, which we will always have.”
“Thirdly, we plan on producing more and more top-class heifer beef from our own home farm so that our customers can have the best farm to butchers to fork experience possible.”
“And again, we have a huge focus on our customer service. It is vital to us to build friendships with the people who are good enough to come to our butchers and spend their hard-earned money.”
“So whether it is quality meats, a chat and a bit of craic with our team or cooking advice, we are always here to help,” he added.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the family had a smaller shop and a small serve over. They were restricted to only 2 customers at a time in-store, which caused “queues and big waits”.
To solve this, they installed the aforementioned 18ft serve-over and created a bigger shop floor to accommodate 5 customers at a time.
“We have been lucky to have been very busy over Covid-19. For that, we would again like to take this opportunity to thank our unbelievable customers who we would be nowhere without.”
On-farm production facility
In the next five years, they plan on expanding. At the moment, they are in the process of going through planning to build a production facility, comprising fresh meat production, cooking and cold storage.
“We plan to not only supply the people of Clonmel and its surroundings with the best quality meats. Furthermore, we plan on expanding our reach beyond.”
“We believe the future of butchering in Ireland is very bright. People are taking much more interest and care in the quality of food they are getting for themselves and their families. They want to know where their food is coming from.”
“In light of this, we believe butcher shops are making a huge resurgence, and we are delighted to be in this trade.”
“Lastly, we just want to give a special mention to our unbelievable customers again.”
“We also want to thank all the local restaurants, delis and other establishments who support us with their custom. Call in and see what we have to offer; you will not regret it,” he concluded.