Bernard Hall, Cuddington
By Haddenham Webteam - 5th August 2013 8:08pm
As part of our series looking at "the people behind the business" we focus on Simon Parminter, proprietor of Parminters Butchers, one of Haddenham's best loved retailers.
Simon Parminter is the third generation of the family of butchers who have supplied high quality meats and food products to the village of Haddenham for nearly 50 years.
Simon's grandfather John moved his business to Haddenham from his former location in High Street Street, Aylesbury, when the town was re-developed in the mid-1960s. Since then, the family has built up a very loyal group of customers — both local residents of the village and those travelling from further afield, who have come to rely on Parminters for their regular supply of fresh meats, pies and other culinary delights.
Simon's father (also called John and sharing the same middle initial as his grandfather — just to add interest when it came to sorting the family's incoming mail!) worked with his father until John Snr retired in the late 1960s, and Simon helped out as the "Saturday boy". But Simon's succession was not a direct one. Instead, he trained and worked as a Chef for 15 years with the Spread Eagle in Thame.
When Simon eventually joined Parminters' Butchers, in its picturesque location at Church End, his professional skills as a chef added considerably to the range of foods he was able to offer — most famously, his delicious meat pies! Some residents of Haddenham may be unaware, for example, that Simon has a stall on Aylesbury Farmers' Market on the last Tuesday of every month, where he is known as Simon the Pieman. "It doesn't fit the logic of the old nursery rhyme", notes Simon, "but it's a catchy name and my customers seem to respond very positively to it — lots of people come looking for my stall as a result of personal recommendations."
"Our pies are also popular in the shop, of course. We offer 17 different fillings, and the most popular is our 'Minted Lamb' — all the local builders and tradesmen come in for that one! Our customers very much appreciate the very high meat content of our pies — far, far higher than levels required by the relevant food standards."
So what's the benefit in buying meat from Parminters' in Haddenham?
Simon is very clear on this: "The main difference is that we receive meat on the bone from a local abattoir, and prepare the various cuts ourselves. This means we can supply precisely what our customers require."
"Our meats are also aged for the optimum period: beef for 28 days, lamb and pork for 7 days, and so on. This gives the meat a much better texture and a fuller flavour compared with that sold by the vast majority of supermarkets, which often supply meat that's only a few days old. You can tell, because our meats tend to have a darker colour compared to the bright red meat you see in the supermarkets."
How else does Parminters score over the one-stop convenience of the supermarkets?
Again, Simon has a confident response: "We want to engage personally with our customers. There is a whole generation or two of shoppers who have not benefitted from domestic science classes at school, and have also come to expect their meat to arrive in pre-packed, cling-wrapped trays. As butchers, we can offer friendly advice about the various cuts to choose for differing culinary or budgetary requirements. And as an experienced chef, I can also offer tips and recipes to ensure that a delicious meal can be prepared, even by those who may feel under-confident in the kitchen."
"Our customers are also reassured to know that Parminters has a 5-star rating from the Environmental Health people — and that's something we're very proud of, and determined to maintain."
So how has Parminters changed and evolved in recent times?
"The economic climate has led our customers to think more about economising, of course", says Simon, "and we have been able to offer advice to ensure that the flavour and enjoyment of food is not diminished. For example, our customers are cooking more with cheaper cuts such as belly of pork, shoulder of lamb, and brisket or shin of beef. Mutton is also very popular, especially in curries, where it provides wonderful flavour. "
"And then there is the question of food miles. As mentioned, we obtain our meat from a local abattoir in Oxfordshire that sources its animals from a 30-mile radius, and our eggs come all the way from Bradmoor Hatcheries in Stanbridge Road! We also look for local suppliers as far as possible for the rest of our 500+ grocery lines."
"The other important change over the years has been the closure of the shops at this end of the village — Beehive Stores and DCP TV repairs in Churchway, the Domestic Electrical shop on the corner of Churchway and Station Road, and the Papershop very close to us, next door to the Rose and Thistle. This means less customer footfall, and the local authorities won't allow us to put up any road signs to help those who have yet to discover us. Thankfully, we have many loyal customers, and we still get regular visits from people on the Midsomer Murders tours, as our shop has featured four or five times on that much loved TV series. And with lots of building work going on in and around Haddenham, we're extremely popular with the Tradespeople, who come in for our filled baguettes as well as our pies. We hope to be around for many years yet, and new and existing customers will continue to find a cheery welcome at Parminters."