After reading the book, Sweeney Todd, I had reservations about entering the local butcher shop 19 years ago, however, having heard many good things about the man that owns and runs the store, I decided to venture forth.
I met with Brent Herrington and he gave me a tour of his premises. His face beamed with pride when he showed me the massive freezer in the back as well as the hospital-like, energy efficient room, which he built himself.
I must confess I knew very little about butchering and was intrigued by what I was shown, but as our conversation developed I grew more impressed with the man who ran the operation.
This monthly feature was developed to share the lives of prominent Port Perry people within the community, and Brent, who does a great deal of good for the neighbourhood, also operates a very successful business in the fashionable ‘Queen West’ district of our downtown core.
For those of you who have lived in or frequented Port Perry for many years, you may recall Reg Cook, a heavy-accented Brit, who opened a butcher shop on Queen Street in 1994. Reg ran the shop for five years until October of 1999, when he talked about selling his business to his protégé and part-time employee. In October of that year, twenty-four year old Brent Herrington bought a butcher shop.
Brent was born on a farm near Campbellford. At the age of thirteen, after his father passed away, he had to make a major, life altering decision: if Brent had a desire to take over the dairy farm one day, they would keep the 250 acre property. If not they would sell the farm and move. It was the kind of decision most of us defer until we are in our twenties or later. Imagine a thirteen year old boy who had not experienced much beyond a hundred or so Holsteins, and life in a very small Ontario town of 3,800 inhabitants, making such a decision.
Brent decided that farming was not for him, and had his heart set on becoming a chef. The farm went up for sale, and the family packed up and moved to Port Perry, where Brent attended Port Perry High School.
Brent was an active rugby player and through a school co-op program, landed a job at Pineridge Packers, a local abattoir near Blackstock, and really began to hone his talent. This became an interesting turn of events for the young farmer from Campbellford. After rugby practice he would rush to work, and found that he had a natural flair for meat cutting. Coupled with his love for cooking, Brent took an uncanny interest in the business.
Excelling at the craft, Brent secured a full-time position at Windcrest, a local meat packing firm in Scugog Township, and then to Reg Cook.
Brent began to court his high school sweetheart, Jacqueline Griffin in earnest, and in 1999 the two were married, solidifying the American Graffiti fairytale. The happy couple bought their home in Port Perry the same year, and also opened Herrington’s Quality Butchers.
Soon after, the couple were expecting their first child, and Jacqueline retired from her career as a dental assistant to raise the young family. Two years after their son William was born they were blessed with a daughter Victoria, and as if he wasn’t busy enough Brent realized his lifelong dream and purchased a used Harley 1450. Between kids, the store and life’s busy turns, Brent found short moments to relax by polishing his bike, and every now and again he even had an opportunity to ride it.
His success in the business is not only because of excellent products that he sells, but because of his attitude and outlook on life. He buys most of his beef from local farmers, he puts his family first, and he gives back to the community, at a rate which would put many to shame. “It’s all about the people,” Brent says, with a genuine grin on his face.
Ten years ago he moved the butcher shop a few stores away to where it is now, expanding into a space twice as large. More importantly, he has rebuilt the interior to make it extremely efficient and spends less on heating then he did in the original location, makes food safety his first priority, and runs a production-efficient operation. Brent now has 18 employees and operates a very successful business.
So what does the future hold for this forty-three year old entrepreneur? His goal is to continue growing his business and serving the people of Port Perry and the surrounding area with quality products and service. For Brent Herrington, it is ‘mainly because of the meat’.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures, at photosNtravel.com.
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Jonathan van Bilsen
Join Jonathan van Bilsen in the Standard as he begins a series of feature articles on prominent residents of North Durham in his new column, The Story Behind The Person.