At 500 Years Old, This Butcher Shop is Britain's Oldest Family-Owned Business

(Photo: RJ Balson and Son)

They're not precisely sure when their business was founded. But RJ Balson and Son has on file a business license granted in 1515. And for that entire 500-year period, this butcher shop in Bridport, Dorset, UK, has been owned and operated by the same family.

It's survived wars, both foreign and civil, plagues, and economic depressions. RJ Balson and Son has been in its current location only recently--just since the 19th Century. But it's always been serving meat to customers in Bridport. The Daily Telegraph reports:

On sale now is a mixture of novelty and old-fashioned fare. Packs of beef dripping share space with sliced chorizo. There is a freezer of game: some traditional, like venison and rabbit, some exotic, like bison, zebra, crocodile, ostrich and kangaroo.

When the business opened, the kangaroo hadn’t even been discovered. […]

From the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, butcher numbers tumbled from 15,000 to around 6,000, a drop of 60 per cent, according to Meat Trades Journal, though in the last couple of years figures have stabilised.

Balson is clear that he can fight against the supermarkets. “The main thing is personal service. When you come in, you get a nice welcome, you say, 'how’s your mum?’, 'how’s your daughter?’ Most of the people who come in, we’ve served their parents before them, and their grandparents before that and they like to be asked.

"You’re not going to get that personal experience in a supermarket. Who wants to queue up for 20 minutes before you even get to the checkout?”

In any case, if a shop has outlived 23 monarchs and 52 prime ministers, it probably stands a fighting chance of surviving the rise and Tesco and Aldi.

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