AFTER serving the villagers of Hermitage for more than 100 years, the Crown Butchers shop is to close its doors for good next month.
Martin Gathergood and his brother Jeffrey have run the business for the last 30 years and blame the increasing numbers and popularity of supermarkets and farm shops for a sharp drop in customers.
They will be hanging up their aprons for the last time on April 1.
“When we started there were no big shops and people would use the high street butchers, but shortly later we noticed a slow drop-off of customers,” said Martin Gathergood.
“However, in the last 10 years, the lack of footfall has been dramatic.
“The exception is at Christmas time.
“It seems that it is only then that people want real quality.
“The problem is that the only time we see the customers is when they order their turkeys and when they collect them.
“We have been at the heart of the village community for all these years.
“We have supported the village as much as we could and have even organised a hog roast to provide funds for the church.”
The business has also been actively involved in a Royal County of Berkshire Show initiative.
It has supplied the meat and skins that are delivered to local schools to teach children the art of sausage making.
Jan Murray, the Royal County of Berkshire Show’s education officer, said: “This is the end of an era.
“From the point of view of education at the show it will be a huge loss as Martin and Jeffrey have generously supplied the meat and skins for the workshops for seven years.”
Martin Gathergood, who is married with two daughters and a son, started work in a butchers shop as a ‘Saturday boy’ when he was just 12 years old.
He said: “It is all I have ever done, but now it is time to move on.
“We have made a lot of friends and we will miss them.”
Martin will not be turning his back on butchery entirely, however.
Next year he will be moving from his home in Reading to start a new life in the north east of Scotland where he will be holding workshops teaching his skills to tourists.
He said: “Strangely, I will miss getting up at 4am every morning.
“I have been doing it for so long I am used to it.
“And I am not going to be bored. I have my dog and a gun so will have the chance to spend more time shooting.”
As for his brother, he joked: “Jeffrey will just retire, sit back and enjoy himself.”