CELEBRATING 50 YEARSSaturday, 27th Oct 2012
The son of Hugh and Agnes Mitchell, Alex Mitchell was born in Stirling on 2nd April 1941, but grew up in Glasgow along with his older sister Jeanette and younger brother Hugh. At school, Alex excelled in the technical subjects, but when he was 14 years of age and looking for ways to earn some pocket money, a family friend by the name of Mr Tommy Paul opened a butcher's shop in Barrhead.
That shop was nothing like Alex's own shop nowadays, since Mr Paul's shop had no refrigerated counters. In 1957 Mr Paul offered Alex, who was by then 15 years old, a full time job earning a weekly wage of £2.50, much to Alex's technical teacher Mr Patterson's disappointment.
Just like any trainee butcher today, that job involved making the sausages and washing up. He then progressed onto the Steak Deck, where he handled Sirloin Steaks, Popeseye, Rib Roast, Rump Steak and Shoulder Steak. Most steaks were cut as required. They all had to be cut straight and no knife marks were to be seen otherwise Mr Paul would reprimand the young butchers. That usually involved a swift kick to the ankles!
Having mastered the steaks, Alex then progressed further on to the chops and to window dressing, something which Alex is proud of and well known for in his own shop still to this day. Despite being good at the job, at the age of 17 Alex informed his mother that he did not like his job and wanted to leave it. She was not happy at all about that news and 'encouraged' him to stay in the job, since people would "always want to eat meat".
In those days, youngsters commenced their apprenticeships at the age of 16, so Alex was actually then too old to become an apprentice. He decided that if he had to stick at the trade, then he was determined to do well in it. So, he then started to attend evening classes three nights per week at the Allen Glen School.
In 1962, after fours years of study and at the age of 21 having passed all his exams Alex received his diploma. After graduating from evening classes and when he was newly engaged to Margaret Menzies, Alex asked Mr Paul for a pay rise so that he would then earn the same as his colleague Jack Kelly.
However, Mr Paul refused, so Alex left his employment there to move on to a much larger company called Stewart Brothers of Partick, Glasgow. There, he worked with Edward Stewart and despite thinking that he knew it all, especially with his newly gained qualification, it was only then that Alex's education in the butchery trade really began.
At Stewart Brothers, there was a head woman by the name of Mary (Alex never
knew her surname), who would keenly look after the shop window display. If the
steaks and chops did not come up to scratch, she would simply send the butchers
away telling them to retray the items.
Later on, after Mr Stewart had passed away and Mary had retired, a chap by the name of Mr Alex Barber came to manage the shop. He didn't say very much, but if the butchers' workmanship did not meet his standards, he would also send the butchers away to re-tray their steaks and chops, or re-hang the joints correctly in the shop window. Always keen to learn and improve his own butchery skills, Alex would carefully observe the other butchers and picked up lots of good tips.
At the tender age of just 23, Alex married his beloved Margaret at St James' Parish Church in Pollok, Glasgow on the 5th September 1964. The ceremony was conducted by the Rev James Currie. Alex moved on from Stewart Brothers to take up a position for Allied Suppliers as the manager of their first supermarket in Oswald Street, Glasgow. They had taken over the Galbraith store.
Alex recalls an incident that happened there after he caught some of his staff hiding meat in the dirt bins. When he challenged them, one of them threw a meat cleaver at Alex, which fortunately missed him but destroyed a sky light. They left, but threatened Alex by telling him they'd see him in the morning.
Alex reported the incident to his supervisor, who met with him the following morning ready for the thieving staff members. Sure enough, they were waiting for Alex at the shop door in the morning ready for fisticuffs. Hands came out of pockets and glasses were removed in readiness for what might have happened, but fortunately the supervisor intervened and was able to calm the situation down. They were removed from their positions and replaced with new staff.
Alex did very well as manager of that store and built up their sales over a few years. He was subsequently invited to manage their larger Galbraith Butchery Department in Dumbarton, which he accepted. A few years later, Alex saw an advert by his previous employer Stewart Brothers, who were seeking a Supervisor, who would be required to cover the Scottish East Coast region from Edinburgh,right up to Aberdeen. Stewart Brothers had the fresh meats franchise for
Littlewoods in Scotland. Alex applied for the position and was offered the job. After discussing the offer with Margaret and other family members, Alex accepted. There was indeed a great deal of travelling involved in this new role.
Whilst still living in Glasgow, Alex drove around the stores within his East Coast region improving business efficiency and procedures. He was working very long hours, but Alex really enjoyed his job and the challenges that it presented to him. In 1968, Alex and Margaret made the decision to relocate to the new town of Glenrothes in Fife on the East Coast of Scotland, which was much better located for the amount of travelling that Alex was doing.
At that time, Littlewoods decided to open a store in Dundee and Alex was given the challenge of recruiting the required staff. The Dundee store became Alex's central store when he wasn't travelling around the region. He, and the rest of the management team, worked very hard at building up that store, which soon became the busiest store in Scotland. This was a great achievement, and something that Alex is still very proud of.
On 2nd December 1970, Alex and Margaret became the very proud parents to their first and only child, Katherine. Alex was still travelling a great deal, and had to rush through to Glasgow, where Katherine was born, to be with Margaret and their new baby girl. In 1974, the travelling was getting too much for Alex because he wasn't seeing Katherine as often as he would have liked.
At that time, the second phase of Glenrothes' brand new indoor shopping centre called the Kingdom Centre was opened and a company by the name of Alex Munro was opening a butcher's shop in the centre. Despite really enjoying the
Littlewoods job, Alex was missing out on seeing his family, so he decided to apply for the manager's job with Alex Munro. He was offered the position, but he was to be based in their shop at the Kirkcaldy Mercat Centre.
That wasn't the shop he'd hoped for, but it did cut down the amount of
travelling he was doing, allowing him to spend more time at home with Margaret
and Katherine. Not long afterwards, though, Alex was asked to manage the Kingdom
Centre store in Glenrothes, which he was actually able to walk back and forth
to. Margaret joined Alex in working at that store, and together they built up
the shop to become one of the top five stores in Scotland.
During his time working at Alex Munro, Alex did very well in the national
butchery competitions. He won The Master Butcher of the Year competition in 1977, and in 1986 he was crowned The Master Poultryman of the Year. Alex was now becoming a very well-known character within Glenrothes and the surrounding areas with a reputation for being an exceptional butcher. When Alex and Margaret were courting' way back in the day, they had hoped that, one day, they might own their own house and perhaps even own their own business, too.
It was after they had both become committed Christians in 1987 that The Lord
made this dream become a reality for them because in 1989 Alex and Margaret
opened their own shop in the Glamis Centre. The Glamis Centre is a local
shopping precinct within the residential area of Pitteuchar in Glenrothes. That
was the start of Alex Mitchell Butchers. Alex and Margaret have worked hard over
the years at developing Alex Mitchell Butchers into the thriving,
well-respected, and award-winning business that it is known for today.
Throughout his career, from the moment he decided to actively pursue a careerin the butcher industry, Alex has had a real passion for his work and has been committed to achieving excellence. His reputation as being a bit of a stickler for extremely high standards is well-known, which past and present Alex Mitchell Butchers staff members will no doubt testify to.
He is an 'old-school' Master Butcher, who is a well-known and highly regarded
figure throughout the Scottish butchering fraternity. Alex was delighted when Katherine decided to change her career in 2008 to take up an official role within the family business. She, along with her husband Paul are also company directors and have been developing and diversifying the business by taking it online into the world of eCommerce. Instead of opening another conventional
shop, the online department at www.alexmitchellbutchers.com<http://www.alexmitchellbutchers.com>
effectively became multiple shops allowing customers throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain to also have access to the high quality Alex Mitchell Butchers' fresh Scottish Meat produce including the fabulous Aberdeenshire Scotch Beef that so many customers are used to at The Glamis Centre.
In addition to the online department Katherine has been streamlining
processes and procedures within the business as well as developing the bakery
department. Today, Alex employs around fifteen members of staff at The Glamis
Centre, and now at the slightly more mature age of 71, he is still showing no
signs of wishing to retire from his beloved, life-long career that he has so
passionately pursued over the years.
Alex wishes to thank his very loyal customers, some of whom have regularly shopped with him since his Alex Munro days. Alex has always aimed to please, and
has passionately pursued his core business values of Quality, Convenience and
Customer Service. He also wishes to thank the many suppliers of Alex Mitchell
Butchers including Scotch Premier, Malones of Edinburgh, Halls of Broxburn,
Bells, John D Forrest, Copas, Fine Foods of Fife, Swords, Stenhouse Meats,
Dalziels and Seriously Good Venison, who have for so many years supplied the
business with Aberdeenshire Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, Specially Selected Pork,
Poultry, Locally Sourced Venison and lots of other delicious products.
Other businesses that Alex has consistently had great service from over the years, and for whom he is very grateful, include Biro Tech, CF Refrigeration, C/F Electrical, East of Scotland Contracts, KRH, and Honeyman Fleming Accountants. Alex has trained many staff over his career, and he is also very grateful for the dedication and commitment shown by past and present members of
staff as they have joined with him in the pursuit of achieving excellence. Some of them have gone on to open their own businesses including Andrew Kirk of Andrew Kirk Butchers, Fife. Some of them have even gone on to marry his daughter, Katherine, having started out as the dishwasher!
In addition to customers, suppliers and staff members, Alex would also like to thank The Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) for their invaluable level of support for his business. As a Christian, Alex is grateful to God for the love and guidance that he has experienced over the years.
There have been some good times as well as some trials during Alex's career, and he is thankful that God has seen him through those times with the promise that He would never leave nor forsake Alex. Finally, Alex would like to thank his family for their love and support that they have given him over his lifetime and career.
Margaret has been a loving, faithful and devoted wife to Alex, also being his business partner as they strived together to develop the Alex Munro store, then subsequently the Alex Mitchell Butchers business. Katherine, Alex and Margaret's daughter, came into the business in a formal capacity in 2008 and is growing the business in various ways, along with her husband Paul, including the bakery and online departments.
So, as Alex is celebrating an amazing 50 years as a Master Butcher, it is clearly evident that he has had, and is still very much enjoying to this day, a very lengthy, distinguished and successful career, and is a highly regarded figure within the Scottish Butchery Industry.