The second segment of Butchers at Christmas, Catherina speaks to fourth-generation butcher James Nolan, who hails from a family that has been involved in the craft for over one century.
From humble beginnings to becoming one of Ireland’s leading operators, Nolans Butchers, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare have a powerful holding in the butchery craft.
The long-standing family tradition was started in 1886, by James’ Great grandfather, on the main street in Kilcullen, a very small village in Co. Kildare.
Husband and wife duo James and Emma are now at the helm, with James being the fourth generation of the family to take the reins. The enterprise has snowballed from its establishment, with a team of twenty-six staff now employed, with a staff base of thirty-nine during the busy festive Christmas period.
“I have always wanted to go into the family business since a very early age. Initially, I wanted to have 12-14 Nolan Butchers shop in different towns” James explained.
“However - I got sick and ended up on dialysis and was waiting for a transplant. I was lucky enough to receive a kidney from my sister Catherine and I have never looked back since.” James said.
“This whole chapter of my life changed my perspective of life and thankfully I changed my plans and I just wanted to have one shop, but I wanted to make it the shop that I could possibly have." He added.
A cut above the rest
What makes this enterprise a cut above the rest is their own E.U. approved Abattoir, Boning Hall, Processing Hall and award-winning Shop, all of which is under the one roof in their shop located on the main street in Kilcullen. Their family farm is located three-hundred metres from the back entrance of the shop.
James, who understudied his father took over as head of the business 2002 and has continued the family tradition. In June 2006, James undertook a massive expansion - the doors were closed and the entire shop was demolished. Every brick was taken down except for the front façade which is under a preservation order. The new store opened its doors on December 6th 2006.
This butcher shop has become something of an institution for many people. There are many obvious reasons for this, such as quality, reliability and value for money; Nolan's, however, has a unique atmosphere. Dubbed aptly as the "Social Centre of Kilcullen". There is a vibe in the shop that typifies the nature of the people of the area.It is this combination of guaranteed quality and the unique atmosphere that makes Nolan's the butchers with a difference.
Nolans Butchers now specialise in beef, fish, delicatessen, gluten-free, ham and bacon, lamb, pork, poultry, puddings and sausages, with a strong offering of award-winning produce.
“There is a major demand for ready-made meals, reduced fat products, low-fat products and gluten-free products. We used to make gluten-free sausages once a month and now we are making them every week.” James explained.
“People are so much more health conscious and it is great because we can adapt to customers’ needs and we can meet the demand,” James added.
When asked the success of the business, as it continues to sky-rocket to success, James draws attention to the path that he has carved out.
“If you look at the shop today, I am happy with what I have achieved, but you cannot just stop. You have to keep driving on all the time. The feeling that I brought the business to another level from my father is probably the biggest thing that gives me satisfaction.” James said.
Andy built up a dedicated of a network of farmers in the locality, which James believes in a key factor that has contributed to the admirable success of his business.
“They supply us with sheep and heifers and it is something that I am keen to keep going also. We are so lucky with the land that we have here in Kildare and surrounding counties.” James said.
“From a farming perspective that is something that I am really keen to keep going- that old-fashioned method of farmers bringing in heifers to sell them and then the farmers buy their meat in our shop. It is just lovely to keep that going.” James added.
In 2015 Nolan’s of Kilcullen won the ultimate accolade when they were awarded the title of “ Champion of Champions - Best Butchers Shop in the U.K. and Ireland” at the House of Lords in London.
“It gave Emma and I and all the wonderful Team of staff at Nolan’s of Kilcullen a wonderful boost and the award acknowledged that we had achieved the highest possible standards in our business,” James explained.
Most recently, at the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland National Awards, the business also scooped the award for the Best Spiced Beef in Ireland, as well as the best gluten-free sausage in Ireland and they were also the runner-up in the healthy lifestyle category.
Two weeks ago in France, the family scooped The European Fins Goutiers Award for the Best festive Food product in Ireland and the U.K, with the low-salt home-baked ham, aswell as winning awards for their home-made sausages and puddings.
The driving force behind Punchestown Kidney Research Fund
Outside of business affairs, James is very much involved in his community for personal reasons, with one charity, in particular, that is very close to his heart. James established the Punchestown Kidney Research fund having had a progressive renal failure from birth. The charity has raised a whopping €1.4 million respectively, to date. They are just about to open the doors of a brand new unit in Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
“Outside of running the business, this charity means such much to me. I wouldn’t be here only for my sister Catherine, who gave me a kidney." James explained.
The Bright Future
As a leader in the sector, with a quality brand, now supplying eleven supermarkets with retail packs, James believes that there is a “huge opportunity” to develop this front of the business further.
The Nolans have recently joined forces to start a programme with Rian O’Flaherty in Kildare Village and James is very satisfied with the progress so far. With 2018, just around the corner, it is going to be another progressive year for the entrepreneurs, with exciting business opportunities in the pipeline.
Long-term, James and Emma are optimistic that their young son, Andrew James decided to carry on the tradition, although there is no pressure on him to do so.
“It is too early to say, but who knows. We would love if the fifth generation would take the business on. With a fully E.U approved facility, there is definitely scope to push more for export markets, so maybe this is an area that the next generation of the family can focus on.” James concluded.
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