Fraser Orr the butcher back where he belongs

Fraser Orr, wearing a pin-striped black apron and trilby hat, is back at work as butcher, looking comfortable in the kitchen, the cutting room and behind the counter of his new shop in Central Saanich.

After a very long five years away from running his own butcher shop, he is once again doing what he knows and loves.

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“I’ve come full circle. I know I have to do this. I have to be in business,” said Orr during a tour of the new store — Fraser Orr’s Butcher and Deli on Mount Newton Cross Road — that he has opened with his wife and business partner, Lori.

Though he is as cheery as ever, and visibly excited and proud of the new enterprise, he admits it’s not been an easy five years, and it hasn’t been the smoothest road back.

Orr, his brother, Stewart, and sister, Rhonda Hebb, closed a 31-year-old family business — Ronald Orr and Son — and its three locations in 2012 after it ran into financial trouble.

“You don’t foresee the business closing,” Orr said.

He was the only family member to continue working as a butcher for a while, making some of his signature sausages, pies and other items for The Market stores.

But his intention was always to get back to running his own place. “I wanted to get back into the game immediately. I just didn’t have the finances to get back in the game.”

That led to the work with The Market stores and eventually a job in the oil patch, where big money offered a chance to save a few bucks.

“I worked in the oil patch for a year in Fox Creek, Alta., [260 kilometres northwest of Edmonton] driving trucks,” he said.

“It was murder. I was out there slogging my guts out. It wasn’t any fun, but you do what you have to do in order to get back to what you love to do.”

With a purpose and a purse, Orr worked quickly to get the new store up and running.

“Planning this started last November and it quickly came together,” he said. It took about two and a half months to get approvals, build the space and start slinging sausages and cutting beef.

The store, built out in what had been a wine manufacturing business, takes up about 2,000 square feet — 1,200 square feet for the cutting room, deli counter and retail space, and 800 square feet for the kitchen that produces haggis, pies, Scotch eggs and roasted chickens.

It has been open since Feb. 22, and it’s possible the smile on Orr’s face has been there since that morning when he turned on the lights.

“This feels great. This is who I am, this is it,” he said.

Orr gets a little emotional recounting how stunned he was at the response they got when the doors opened.

“I didn’t realize I was so well liked,” he said. “It took me by surprise how well I was received back in the neighbourhood.”

Orr hopes the family reputation as sausage and haggis makers will keep a steady stream of customers coming.

The store has a deli selling hot and cold lunches, cold cuts, sausage rolls, pies, Scotch eggs and pizzas — including a haggis pizza.

Rhonda Hebb has returned as the head baker, and Orr has added butcher Dan Montague-Rippner.

“This has been great, it’s been fun,” said Hebb.

Orr said his 30-plus years of experience, the closing of the old stores and reopening have taught him a lot and made him a stronger person who will do some things differently.

They will not be producing food for anyone other than their own store as they intend to re-establish themselves as a destination.

Orr sees Montague-Rippner as a key addition to bring new ways of doing things and different products to the store.

But it’s not likely Orr will cut back his own work schedule — the store is open five days a week, but he works six-plus.

The place is quintessentially Scottish, like the Orrs, with square sausage and Ayrshire bacon in the fridge and Irn Bru and a variety of Scottish pantry staples on the shelves.

Orr said he even expects to be back producing three tonnes of haggis a year, one of the boasts of the old store.

And he couldn’t be happier about it.

“I’ve felt like I’ve been on holiday the last five years anyway,” he quipped, though he still shudders at the thought of the oil patch.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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