A year ago Brian and Joanna Milligan decided they wanted to open a butcher shop in Cloyne. It had taken a long time to decide this was what they wanted to do. Brian worked as a butcher for Quinn’s abbatoir in Yarker when he was young but had gone on to do other things. Joanna had her own path as well, but they both ended up together in Cloyne on a rural property. And they got married on July 5th, 2017.
Brian had returned to working Quinn’s a couple of days a week, “and although I liked the work, this time I knew I had to find something else for myself, and I told Brian Quinn that I wasn’t going to be back working full time for him. I knew that people missed having a butcher in Cloyne ever since Cloyne Village Foods closed, and people encouraged us to think about opening one” said Brian last week, during a lull in the now thriving shop
Once they realised opening their own shop was what they wanted to do, finding a location was the next step, and that took some time. The former Cloyne Home Hardware store is located really close to their Snider Road property but it was not the first place they looked at.
“We thought it was a much larger building than we needed,” said Joanna.
But eventually they took a look at it, figuring they could use as much of the building as they needed at first, and find something that fits in the rest of it. In February, they looked seriously at the building, and consulted with the people at the Prince Edward/Lennox and Addington Community Futures Development Corporation (PELA CFDC).
“They really encouraged us. They looked at our numbers and said it could work, and helped with funding as well,” said Joanna.
By the end of February they owned the building and from then on it has been a constant string of long days and short sleeps. They carved out a third of the building for the butcher shop, sold off or moved everything into another part of the building they are now using for storage, built a butcher shop and retail area, and were ready and approved to open by July, a quick turnaround.
The store area is done in deep reds and black, giving the store a very contemporary feel.
“I wanted to open an Irish Pub and Brian wanted a butcher shop, so I made a shop that feels like a pub,” said Joanna, who designed the store.
“The butcher shop is visible from the front, however, and it is bright and clean.
They just missed opening on Canada Day weekend, and opened instead on the 5th of July, their first anniversary.
“We really wanted to be open right at the start of summer, but given how buy we were when we opened on the 5th, I’m kind of glad we missed the long weekend,” said Brian.
Since they have opened, they have been overwhelmed by the community support they have received.
“We are committed to quality, custom cuts, talking to people about what they want to eat, and bringing in the best products, not only the meat, which we get from Quinn’s, but cheese and other products as well, and people have really responded to that. They want us to succeed and they appreciate the efforts we are making,” said Brian.
As the summer begins to wind down, Joanna and Brian are finally taking the opportunity to start thinking about the winter phase of their business. One of the first orders of business will be to complete the construction and licensing of a second work space for a wild meat abattoir in time for moose and deer season.
“That’s a service we know is needed in this community and the region as well,” said Brian.
Other work will be done on bringing other specialty food in for customers.
“We would love to be able to offer local wine or beer to customers, just like we want to be able to offer local food, but that is not going to happen in Ontario just now,” said Joanna, “but we will be working on web promotions, putting together different meat orders for people, a bunch of things that we haven’t had a chance to do because the summer has been so busy we have really only been trying to keep up.”
One thing that hasn’t been rushed at Milligan’s is service. Not only are the staff engaged with customers, Brian likes to use some added touches reminiscent of the old idea of a village butcher shop.
“I thought, from the start, that I would use butcher paper and string, instead of tape. It doesn’t take a lot longer to wrap a piece of meat in paper and grab string off a roll, tie it and cut the string instead of slapping on tape, and I like doing it. Customers like it as well, even young ones who don’t remember the way butcher shops used to be,” said Brian.
Joanna and Brian see their shop, and some of the other efforts people are making in business, as a new beginning for Cloyne and area.
They hope to find another business to use the rest of the building in time, but before they do that they are focussing on making Milligan’s meats a success. And one year after coming up with the idea, they have already made an impressive start.