Telephone: 01359 259225
The Rolfes of Walsham shop has been providing fine foods to customers since the late 1800’s. It’s the only remaining of all Walsham’s previous shops. This independant food business has been run by Paul Hubbard since 2001. He started working for David Rolfe when he was just 14 so he has many years experience of his trade.
Rolfes has an extensive choice of locally sourced quality fresh meat, with the Beef for example always being well hung and beautifully marbled, ensuring superb taste. Pork and Lamb are also sourced locally and they cure their own bacon and bake their own pies. They also produce a range of award winning sausages making between six and eight different varieties each day. There is always a tempting choice of cheeses available both English and Continental, plus a range of “Tapas” including Olives, Sun-dried tomatoes, Cray fish tails, Parma and Serano hams. There is a full range of greengrocery and Rolfes also bake their own bread daily. For a great food experience call in at Rolfes, you will be surprised at how much there is on offer to tempt your taste buds.
In the Saturday edition of the East Anglian Daily Times of March 15th 2008 appeared an article which was sub-headed "ROLFES of Walsham won the accolade of Best Butcher at the latest EADT Suffolk Food and Drink Awards. Owner, butcher Paul Hubbard, was described as "totally committed "to ensuring the shop remains at the heart of village life."
Paul Hubbard was just 13 when he walked into the village butcher's shop before Christmas and asked for a job. Thirteen years on, he was fully versed in the trade after being taken under the wing of the shop's owner, David Rolfe, as an apprentice.
Paul was off sick nursing a broken arm when David, who was then still living in Walsham and is now enjoying his retirement living in Badwell Ash, paid him a visit. Paul thought that he had come to talk about sick pay, or something related to his injury. Instead, David, then aged 60. asked Paul to buy the business, enabling him to hang up his butcher's apron and retire after 50 years, having started at the age of 10. "He walked in through the door and said: "So you want to buy the butcher's shop?" and those were his exact words, and I said: "I suppose that I do. I didn't know. I was in two minds whether to buy it".
"I always wanted to have my own butcher's shop. I didn't even know if I was going to make any money but I lived at home with my mum and dad," he recalls. "I had nothing to lose. I didn't know if I wanted to do it, or how good I would be at it." Paul, a past pupil of Walsham primary and Thurston High, was the son of a farm worker and a lifelong villager.
When he bought the shop in April 2001, his only experience of running a business was his share in a motorcycle shop in Rickinghall which he ran with a friend and business partner. Paul, a motorcycle enthusiast who still races off-road, put aside his interest in that business when the opportunity to run the butcher's shop came along. Today, business is booming at Rolfes of Walsham, in spite of being off-the-beaten-track and the increasing dominance of the supermarkets.
Paul, now 32, trained at Meat East Anglia Trades in Ipswich, where he spent four years on day release, winning various scholarships and awards, while continuing to work for Rolfes. He became a member of the Insitute of Meat and of the Worshipful Company of Butchers' Guild.
A bucher's shop has existed at its present site since 1875, and David, a highly respected butcher and an ardent supporter of village life, had been involved in the business for half a century. As a result, Paul inherited a very healthy business, and benefited from all that David was able to teach him. "He's a very good taskmaster. He's a very good butcher, very particular, and I have to say him and Meat East Anglia Trades I owe everything to," says Paul. "He was probably one of the biggest influences. I always admired him and he was quite an impressive person."
The problem with a business like Rolfes is that it's not always easy to retire, but with Paul, an able apprentice who had grown into a talented butcher, David was able to pass it on seamlessly to a new generation. "He had a lot to do with the village, was always involved in various councils and things like that. He always felt very passionately about village life," Paul recalls. "He was always admired by lots of people really and was considered an upstanding person in the community. I was his only apprentice."
Taking on the business was not an easy transmission for Paul, but he was up for the challenge, and keen to prove himself. "I had never spoken to any of my suppliers. They knew me obviously, because of how long I had worked for David. I didn't know what was going to happen. I was thrown in at the deep end, but sometimes I think that's for the best. If you are going to succeed at something you need to put yourself up against it," he says. Luckily, the customers were "brilliant" and stuck by him. In the first few months, he worked long hours, starting at 5am and not finishing until 11pm as he tried to keep his overheads down. He found it tough going to start with because of the heavy workload. Doing his own spreadsheets and wages opened his eyes to the many aspects of the job.
Today, Paul employs seven full-time staff, compared to three when he took over and business has doubled in that time. "There comes a point when you have a feel of where you are going to, I think. Now I have got two full-time butchers," he says. His recipe for success has been hard work and doggedness, and an understanding of what his customers want. The butchers shop has always sold groceries, fruit and vegetables, and run a delicatessen. The range is impressive, embracing everything from potatoes, carrots and tomatoes to celeriac, butternut squash, fennels and avocadoes and a huge variety of cheeses to reflect the changing palate of his customers. In-house products include pies and honeyroast ham, as well as the butcher's staples of sausages and meat cuts. Freshly baked bread is brought in from a business at Haughley and croissants are baked on site.
At the British Pig Executive East Midlands sausage competition in 2007, the shop scooped three golds, three silvers and a bronze for a range of their homemade products, from Walsham Gold sausages to beef, Guinness and caramelised red onion sausages. Paul appreciates the support he gets, not only from his staff but especially from local villagers, but also from customers from as far as Felixstowe and even Cambridge. He has even sent his bacon to Blackpool! He remains very upbeat about the future of his thriving shop, and feels there are many more, as yet unexplored, possibilities for it. "I would like to think I could expand the shop. It's endless what you can do," he says.
The shop also stocks newspapers and magazines and fulfils a myriad of community services from selling tickets for local village functions to providing a drop-off point for medicines. The business relies on local suppliers, such as beef farmer Andrew Bullock (!) of Cotton, and Dingly Dell pork from near Woodbridge. Quality and innovation are at the shop's core, with Paul creating new recipes to turn into products to sell in the shop, and the awards come thick and fast. "It's too easy to get complacent and assume you are making a profit," says Paul. "Pretty much everything we do is unique to us."
With the development of the Elmside site and following on from the closure of the village Post Office the long term future of this very valuable asset seems to be assured, it certainly deserves to prosper. Congratulations to Paul and also to his team !