Bruce Stubbs hung up his butcher’s apron for the final time this month – 100 years after his grandfather established Stubbs Butchery, which went on to become an institution in Warkworth.
Bruce, 68, remembers his grandfather Herbert as a staunch individual of the old school. In the afternoons, he would wander across the road to the Warkworth Hotel for a beer. He had a chair outside where he could sit and keep a watchful eye on his sons running the shop, one of whom was Bruce’s father, Bert.
Bruce says if anybody happened to be sitting in “Herbert’s chair” when his grandfather arrived, the barman would politely ask the offender to move. Bruce’s father Bert went on to fight in Italy during World War II but when he returned (minus a leg) he continued to work in the shop, serving there for 60 years.
Bruce got his own taste for butchery while still at school. Back then, his uncle Ken Stubbs was responsible for making the sausages, but when he was on holiday Bruce was roped in to do the job. He enjoyed the work and completed a butchery apprenticeship with Foodtown in Auckland.
Bruce did not care much for Auckland and soon returned to Warkworth.
“The day my apprenticeship finished, I was back home that night,” Bruce says.
In those days, the butchery also had an abattoir on Hill Street, another aspect of the trade that Bruce enjoyed.
“My uncle Jim was the slaughterman and I used to love helping him with the killing. On a single day we would do a couple of bodies of beef, around 15 lambs and a couple of pigs,” he says.
Bruce set up his own butcher’s shop in Snells Beach, which he ran for more than a decade but eventually returned to Warkworth where he worked for his brother Donald. Donald sold the shop in 1999, but Bruce continued working as a butcher at Warkworth New World, where he has been for the last 20 years.
The former Stubbs shop is now home to Warkworth Butchery, but the Stubbs name can still be seen on the tiling under the window.
Bruce says he has been happy enough at New World, but does miss the personal contact of the small shop.
“I liked that one-on-one with the customer, especially back in the day when I knew them all,” he says.
Bruce now plans to help his son Blake establish an electrical business in the area. He says he’s not at all disappointed that his son has failed to continue the Stubbs butchery tradition for a fourth generation. Indeed, he thinks his son has made a good choice.
“Especially in this area with so much building going on. There’s plenty of work for electricians and plumbers and all that sort of thing around here,” he says.