WITH a tear in his eye and more than half a century of memories in his heart, Les Coutman untied his butcher’s apron on Saturday and closed a chapter of his life.
One of Tamworth’s longest-serving butchers, Mr Coutman first plied his trade in 1958 when he started as an apprentice at the former New England Smallgoods at just 14.
In the 56 years since, he has witnessed a dramatic transformation of the industry, an evolution he believes will result in the death of independent butchers within a decade.
“The supermarkets have got us beat,” Mr Coutman, 70, said.
“The housewives go to the supermarket, grab all their groceries and meat in one hit and they don’t have to drag their kids to a bunch of different stores.
“They can’t beat us for price or quality but they can beat us for convenience, and that’s what people seem to want now.”
Mr Coutman, who has spent the past 37 years running The Globe Butchery on Goonoo Goonoo Rd, said he had seen “about 30” butchers close since he started.
“In another 10 years there’ll only be a couple of big butchers left in Tamworth,” he said.
Mr Coutman has been battling ill health – “I’ve got a bad spine and my legs are shot” – for a number of years and opted not to renew the lease on his shop.
He said consumer tastes had also changed over the years.
“We don’t sell as many roasts and they seem to like those fancy sausages and other fancy stuff now,” he said.
The grandfather of 11 aims to spend more time with his grandkids, do some voluntary work and watch his beloved Parramatta Eels in the NRL.
“It’s a sad day to be leaving here,” he said. “I’ve got so many memories and I’m a bit scared of the unknown.
“I’ve made so many good friends with the customers and it’s hard to say goodbye.”