Her great-grandfather was a butcher. Her grandfather was one. Both her parents were in the industry. So the knowledge and ability to make a living from meat, were passed down to Michelle Basson from three generations before her.
Michelle, owner of Bigos Butchery in Worcester, has become a regular vendor at the Pure Boland Market. She has also gained a number of regulars, who come for their monthly biltong fix, or order an entire month’s meat supply.
“Tharina had heard from someone else that our products are quite good,” she says about ending up at the Groenstoor. “She phoned me up a couple of years ago to ask if I would join the market, and I said that I would come with what I have. From that first market it was simply fantastic: the vibe, the sales, the growth. I told Tharina she can count on it that I’ll be there every time.”
Michelle’s product range includes the regular raw meat cuts such as steak, chops and deboned pork neck. Of course there’s mince, boerewors, different kinds of sausages and chicken sosaties too. And what would a South African meat seller be if she doesn’t have biltong and droëwors for sale?
But it’s the cheese sausage that receives the most attention. “It is properly smoked – no smoke-dip shortcuts. We almost always sell out,” says Michelle. “The taste of our products are great because we’re still using the recipes my great-grandfather did. We haven’t tampered with it at all.
“I also think people have come to realise that we give them consistent quality. We try to buy from the same producers as far as possible; those who are known for producing quality livestock. Of course we have a personal touch too, because we don’t have a massive production unit. Quality control is good because we can pay enough attention to what we produce.”
Michelle and her staff make every product from scratch. Not a single item on her table was bought in as is. She credits her “family of butchers”, whose history in the meat industry started in 1917, for ensuring her butchery success. (To this day, her father still guides her with valuable advice.) “Ever since I could count as a little girl, I had helped in the store: filing, the cash register or serving customers. Later I moved on to the production line.”
Michelle took over her business right after finishing school in Worcester. Apart from quality and consistence, she makes sure that competitive pricing is part of her strategy.
“I’ve been in the industry almost ten years now, but I’m still learning – many new things each day,” she adds. But she’s tasted some success already. She has her own biltong shop in a small local shopping centre. She supplies shops, schools and restaurants and her business is a popular choice for birthdays and customers’ other special occasions. And her butchery is thriving thanks to the invaluable exposure she gets through the Pure Boland Market. “It’s great advertisement for my business and some regulars only buy from me at the Groenstoor. It’s basically another outlet for me.”
Michelle is convinced there’s no looking back: she’ll keep returning to the best market in town, and her customers will come back for a freezer full of value for money.