There is a good chance you will have heard Mark ‘The Meat Man’ Whittaker even if you haven’t actually met him.
For years Mark could be found selling meat and putting on a show for the crowds which gathered round the Premier Meats wagon looking for a bargain at the then hugely popular Catterick Sunday Market.
Mark’s first taste of market life was as a 15-year-old when he got a job on a butcher’s stall at the market in Blyth in Northumberland.
This story continues after the adverts:
After finishing his A-levels, Mark had the chance to go to university to study law, but was already smitten with life on the market and so he stayed, later launching his own company that began with a stall at Chester-le-Street.
From there the company grew steadily, but it was the firm’s success at the Catterick Market which established Premier Meats as the region’s leading market butchers.
It was this relationship with Catterick which prompted Mark, after opening successful stores – or Centres of Meat Excellence as the company calls them – further north, to take over the former Colburn Lodge pub and redevelop it into the company’s biggest store yet.
This story continues after the photos:
Mark says it has been pleasure meeting local customers who often remember him from the Sunday market at the racecourse.
“I have people come up to me who remember me at the market when they were kids and were taken there by their parents, and we’re now serving them.”
Premier Meats, which still attends 6 markets across the North-East, is a family business these days with wife Celina responsible for designing the interior of the store’s own bistro, Rare, and son Ben the company’s operations manager.
The company sources meat locally and from around the world.
“What we look for is the very best possible quality of meat at realistic prices,” Mark adds.
He says it was far from ideal that the Sunday market closed just before the new Catterick store opened, meaning the company had no time to point loyal customers in the direction of the new store.
Like other businesses, the upgrade to the A1 and the roadworks at White Shops have affected the first months of business.
But Mark has every confident that the store will be a success.
“What we can do as an independent butcher and that the supermarkets can’t is give customers a good experience.
“We encourage all our staff to get to know our customers and get to know what they like – we can reserve things for customers or give people samples. We have tried to create a food hall rather than a market place.”
Twenty fine years on, Mark can still be found shouting out the company’s latest deals at markets across the region, and he says the company still prides itself on offering what it always has done – good service and a great product at realistic prices.