When farmer Luke Watson and butcher Danny Martin launched their family butcher’s business in Piltdown a year ago they had no idea how manic their lives would become.
There was no hint of a worldwide pandemic on the horizon. They were confident about the quality of the food they offered and looking forward to generating custom on that basis.
The provenance of their meat remains a matter of pride, with pork and beef coming from Luke’s Burgess Hill farm, and lamb from Luke’s father-in-law’s farm at Golden Cross.
And they know their trade. Danny had already worked for 15 years as a butcher in wholesale, retail and in farm shops.
They were enjoying the new challenge in their shop, at Ashgrove Farm, and then overnight on a Monday in March everything changed.
They opened on the Tuesday morning and barely managed to eat or drink all day long because the shop was so busy.
It was just before lockdown and people were panic buying, stocking up with food because they didn’t know what the future held.
For two weeks Danny and Luke worked 17-hour days. They ratcheted up deliveries because they wanted to help people who were self-isolating, and ended up doing 160 deliveries a week.
This was on top of going to market to buy vegetables and preparing the meat for sale.
Danny told Uckfield News: “Everything took longer. It was a two-hour journey to market in Brighton. We would be up at 4am, get home at 9pm then sit down and do the orders and go to bed at about midnight, before starting again.”
They realised they couldn’t keep up the pace and encouraged people to come back into the shop rather than have deliveries.
They kept delivering but were pleased that more people came in to see them. Even better is that they have kept those customers.
“To start with people came to us when they couldn’t get what they wanted from Tesco and then they realised that for the same sort of money they were getting much better quality from us and so they keep coming back.”
Luke said: “It’s been a challenging few months but kind of enjoyable, particularly towards the end of our first year.”
The men said they wanted to carry on doing what they are doing and growing their business “in the right way”. They have now been joined behind the counter by Luke’s cousin Tom Hewett.
The butchers put together meat boxes each week, continue their deliveries, and keep their shop at Ashdown Farm, Piltdown, well stocked. New customers are welcome.