By Casey Neill
Rob Boyle’s British butcher shop has been a Dandenong fixture for 26 years this November.
“I used to work for a firm in Dandenong called Peter’s Meats,” he said.
“They were behind the post office. I started there in ’88, I think.
“They were Dutch background butchers. They were well-established, very good name.”
He worked there for six years.
“I was happy as a pig in mud,” he said.
“After working around the traps for a while, in Australia, finding my feet, I really felt at home there.
“But they said they were closing down by the end of the year.
“I think they’d been in Dandenong since the ’60s, or something like that.
“I wondered what to do. I thought I’d go out on my own and do a little bit of what I’d learnt from them.”
Rob went to extraordinary lengths to find the perfect location.
“I sat outside an empty shot in McCrae Street in Dandenong,” he said.
“An old butcher’s shop had shut down. It was up for lease and I sat outside it every day in my lunch hour and counted the people going by to see if there was enough to make a living.”
He sussed out his Lonsdale Street storefront in the same way. The previous tenant had gone bankrupt and owed the landlord money.
Rob covered the debt and took on the lease.
“I opened up Rob’s Continental Butchers,” he said.
“I tried to make things I’d learnt. It was steadily going along. But people kept asking me, with my accent of course, ‘why don’t you make pork pie’.
“I thought that was old hat and it wouldn’t go.”
But Rob decided to give the food from his homeland a chance.
“I asked the abattoir for a bucket of blood and he sent me 20 litres,” he said.
“I took two litres of it and got an old recipe out.”
The black pudding he produced sold out within hours.
“Now we make 260 kilograms of black pudding a week,” he said.
“We send it all over Australia.
“A lot of the hotels in the city here use it, like the Windsor.”
He slowly made the transition to the British specialty butcher he runs today.
Rob and his team make about 90 products, from British sausages to haggis.
“We don’t just do English, we do Scottish and Irish,” he said.
“The Scots were the first ones that came when I started making the products. They love the black pudding.
“The Scots are a tight knit community. The word soon got around.
“I think the British were a bit suspect. They’d had pork pies from the supermarkets. I had to reignite their tastebuds.”
Rob has won countless awards over the years and is in the running for more from the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) for his chicken snags, chorizo and kransky.
“They say behind every good man is a better woman,” he said.
“Jill is always there to encourage me. It’s been a long road but it’s been a good road and I’ve always enjoyed coming to work and doing what I do.
“A lot of small businesses, especially in the meat industry, have gone under in the past few years. It’s pretty hard out there.
“Supermarkets are always trying to underdo you.
“It’s really up to the people to make sure small business keeps going.
“It’s about getting off your backside.”