Ever since he was in his early teens Christian Alba knew that he wanted to be a butcher. Jonathan Lovett finds out more about the butcher boy who has realised his dream.
I loved that funny meaty smell that butchers’ shops had,” he says, laughing. “I started in the trade as a Saturday boy when I was 13, doing the cleaning, and a couple of years later they offered me an apprenticeship. When I was 15 I was on a butcher’s bike in the Cricklade Carnival with sausages hanging around my neck wearing a bowler hat and a moustache drawn on my face!”
Fast forward 30-odd years and Christian is now the proud owner of his own shop, Christian Alba Traditional Butchers, located in Hungerford High Street. Opening at the start of May it’s the realisation of a dream for the cheery meat man who staked his own house to buy the shop.
“If it’s your own money and your own life it makes you more driven to make it work,” he adds. “I’d been searching a while for somewhere suitable but hadn’t got anywhere and then this supplier I knew came into the place I was working and said, ‘I’ve got one for you in Hungerford!’ I’ve never been here before in my life but I came over and just knew this was right the moment I stepped inside.”
Christian was previously manager of the award-winning Michael Hart & Sons Butcher in Cirencester and he aims to bring the same high standard of quality to Hungerford and shoppers in nearby towns. But what makes his shop special?
“I pride myself on buying English or British. I’m a proud believer of supporting the English farmer because if you don’t, they will be gone. I’m also concerned with animal welfare and if I could sell everything free-range I would but I appreciate not everyone has the money to afford that. But we do sell free-range pork and lamb, beef and chickens.”
His sausages are handmade, there is a great deli selection and a range of gluten-free goods. But there is one special ingredient Christian believes only the best of butchers have… “Service. People buy from people and if they like who they’re buying from and the product is good then they’ll come back. We operate a ‘nothing is a problem’ service so, if we can get it, you can have it. And I love talking to people. When people walk into a small business they don’t want to be treated as a number, they want someone to respond to them with a bit of soul. We want to treat everyone as a friend.”
Christian Alba Traditional Butchers, 9 High St, Hungerford, RG17 0DN, is open Tuesdays to Fridays, 8am to 5pm and Saturdays, 8am to 3pm. Call the shop on 01488 680970.