A bit of 'Haggett' history!

Dave's story

Added: 18 January 2021

Well, here we are still in lockdown! It is very frustrating for us all in the events sector – and especially difficult for those who had planned a wedding and had to re-schedule. We can’t wait to be back doing what we love, providing top-quality catering for special events. While we eagerly await the gradual lifting of restrictions, we thought we’d put together some memories tracing Dave’s journey through the food and hospitality industry. We found some wonderful old photos too!

Dave began his working life in butchery as a ‘Saturday boy’ (as we used to say) in Fletchers Butchers, Yeovil. After leaving school, he worked full time in Dewhurst’s, and then as a relief butcher for Alliance Cash and Carry in the South West. However, he learned the trade – or the ‘finesse’ as he describes it, working for Loders Butchers – also in Yeovil. This family-owned business taught Dave how to butcher the traditional way, and one of the fundamentals of successful business: no waste! He learned how to make brawn, pâté & faggots, and also to make use of bath chaps (now a delicacy) and beef dripping. He also learned how to make pies – something that he was to revisit in years to come. He loved being the ‘shop man’ and interacting with the customers. Window dressing the meat and delicatessen displays was also a favourite – he’d display red and white meats in a ‘chequer board’ design – creative flair was something that also remerged later on his journey.

In 1988, Dave decided to find his own shop and moved to Silverton, near Exeter. He bought the village butcher’s shop, which was then taking approximately £250 per week. The fridges and freezer were empty on a Saturday, instead of being stocked for the coming week. He soon hit his projected targets and, although the villagers reminded him, ‘he’d never be a local’ (!) they soon began to appreciate the displays and smiling customer service.  It was an exciting time, but hours of work were long – and as any self-employed person will know, tinged with uncertainty.

One day, Dave decided to make a dozen pies and placed them on the countertop. They were gone in less than an hour! Encouraged by this, he converted the back of the shop into a pie room, expanding later to supply the wholesale market. ‘Haggett’s pies’ became well-known in Devon and eventually supplied Fortnum and Mason in London. Over the next 20 years, he won over 300 awards for pies and sausages! Alongside butchery, Dave has always provided hog roasts at local events and weddings. Originally, hogs were cooked in an enormous cast-iron machine over hot coals, but latterly in portable, clean and efficient stainless-steel roasters, that Dave designed himself. This pursuit became so popular that Dave expanded the service to supply BBQs and fine dining menus.

In 2004, the village butchers expanded to provide a full ‘grocery store’ service, with a particular emphasis on promoting local products. Over the years, Haggett’s Butchers attracted some interesting media attention. Dave’s spectacular game pie and other deep-layered, cold, cutting pies featured on Rick Stein’s food show. We were also pleased to receive awards from HRH Prince of Wales at his home, Highgrove House – and an award for ‘Best Rural Retailer’ at the House of Lords. Another highlight was judging sausage competitions at Devon County Show, with Tom Parker Bowles and the former Michelin star chef, John Burton Race. Christmas was always a special time in the shop. Dave and the staff dressed the windows beautifully with stunning nativity scenes, drawing visitors and customers from far afield. Queues on Christmas Eve would stretch down the road – we’d serve bacon rolls and mulled wine, with the band playing in the square! Happy days. If you log on to our Facebook page, we have an album of photos, labelled ‘memories’

Dave sold the village shop in 2012 to focus on the catering and events business. And here we find ourselves today, desperately looking forward to doing the work we love. We hope it won’t be long before families can gather again to celebrate weddings, birthdays and the other special occasions we’ve missed so much over the last 10 months. We look forward to seeing you then!