Wednesday, 18 April 2007

A Big Oven for a Big Business- Tony O'Connell- Stallholder

When Tony O’Connell says g’day to his customers it might be in English, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Polish or Vietnamese.

And while his linguistic skills may not go much further than saying hello and how are you, his customers love him for it.

O’Connell’s Meats is located in the multicultural heartland of Adelaide, the Central Market, where people from every race, color and creed go to shop.

Six butchers and eight casual counter staff makes O’Connell’s one of the biggest and busiest butcher shops in South Australia.

And that doesn’t include Tony’s 75-year-old mother, Claire.

“When I opened up in the market 34 years ago, Mum came in to help me clean up and I haven’t been able to get rid of her since,” Tony grins with more than a hint of pride.

Tony has come a long way since starting out at New Adelaide Meat as an apprentice for Master Butcher and former MBL Board member Howard James. In a nice twist, Howard now buys his meat from O’Connell’s.

Last year Tony became the first retail shop to install one of the new generation Smo-king Oven, capable of hot and cold smoking, steam cooking, roasting, baking and drying.

When the 2350 model was installed, he enlisted “the fantastic support of MBL’s John Phillips and Bernie Steinhoff and Regency Tafe’s Steve Maslin” to get the oven up and running with Xmas hams.

Staff then worked around the clock to meet demand and by Xmas Eve had sold 1500 of their own hams and another 3500 bought from outside.

His own hams were a huge success. “People were coming back in January and telling us that it was the best ham they had ever eaten,” says Tony, adding “and that no doubt explains why we sold another 450 in the month after Xmas.”

He confidently predicts the oven will have paid for itself inside two years.

If Tony ever wants to reflect on his beginnings, he has only to look across the mall to the Baker’s Delight bakery, for it was here that the name O’Connell’s first appeared over the door.

On the advice of his father, who said he’d made money for other people and it was now time to make it for himself, Tony bought the two-man shop in Grote Street 34 years ago.

He outgrew it after seven years and moved to the present location 27 years ago, taking over three shops to create the space he needed for expansion.

Recently the business had a major makeover, giving Tony two distinct frontages – one in the mall and the other in the Market proper.

Because of the amazing ethnic mix that is the Market, Tony has to sell everything and anything from standard cuts to offal and sweetbreads. And if there is something that he hasn’t got, he’ll get it.

His success is built upon a very simple philosophy that says, “if you offer quality products at a reasonable price, you’ll never be short of customers.”

Article Courtesy of Trevor Ford, Editor, MBL Food service Bulletin , Vol7, No2 2007

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