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  • Gavin King

    Tropic Now editor

    Email Gavin King

    Family behind much-loved Edge Hill butchers to move on after decades in business

    The Vallely family is synonymous with high quality meat and friendly service in Edge Hill, but now they're moving on after nearly 70 years at their Collins Ave business.

    The local family behind one of the most loved butchers in Cairns is selling the business after nearly 70 years in operation.

    Ben Vallely said his family made the heart-wrenching decision to move on from the industry they loved following the death of family patriarch Brian Vallely earlier this year.

    Ben told TropicNow the family’s decision to sell was “bittersweet” and “difficult to put into words”.

    “The decision to sell has been a minefield for our family, especially after we lost Dad,” Ben said.

    “It’s actually difficult to put into words.... you know for me the feeling of not continuing the family tradition but also never being able to get time and distance enough away to spend time to get over our loss has been hard.

    “It’s a bittersweet feeling because it’s my home.

    “My brother and I grew up in the house behind the shop, we moved back in there with some mates in our late teens, my wife Kristy and I were living there when we got married, we bought our beautiful children into the world there, it`s been such a massive part of my life which I dearly cherish.”

    The first Vallely residence in Edge Hill was built in Hall St on the site of the old army barracks in the 1940s, where Ben’s grandparents lived until about 1948.

    It was then that they moved down to the current Collins Ave site, which includes a house brought down from the Mt Mulligan-Chillagoe area many years prior.

    Brian and Lorraine Vallely (Ben’s parents) purchased the shop on the 1st of July 1976.

    Ben said he experienced “abundant” highlights during his time at the famous butchery, but one achievement just a few months ago stands above them all.

    “My all-time highlight was definitely this year winning the Gourmet class of the National Sausage King competition in our North Queensland region, then going on to take third place (missing out on second by 1 point) at the state titles at the Brisbane Ekka,” he said.

    “It was a very sentimental win especially because my late Dad never got to see me up on the podium for a sausage he wouldn`t let me make. Although I know he was there with me in spirit.

    “The whole experience was so surreal from winning the regionals then going to state and how ridiculously busy we got over the weeks that followed.

    “We made 200kg of our Canadian Maple and Smokey Bacon sausages the week we won along with Dad`s award winning Pork and Italian sausages plus our other flavours with just 2 staff.... it was insane!

    “Looking back it still baffles me how many people came to try our sausages .... definitely proud of that achievement and couldn`t of done it without my wingman Craig.”

    Ben also recalls a memorable encounter with Queensland State of Origin legend Sam Backo.

    “A few years ago Sam Backo walked in the front door and fully star struck I greeted him with "SAM BACKO!!!" in a loud excited voice,” Ben recalls.

    “His reply ‘Yeah ... who wants to know!?’ in a gruff ‘who the f..k are you’ tone was just hilarious.

    “I explained to Sam that I grew up watching him play with Wally screaming at the television with Dad cheering our beloved Maroons on and I asked if he could autograph our shop footy that had been signed by other NRL players.

    “He did that very happily and I sold him a couple of kilos of diced lamb so he could make his Mum a curry. What a legend.”

    So what does the future hold for Ben and his family, as well as the butchery?

    The great news for local fans of the family-owned, independent butchers is that another butcher family has brought the business.

    “We are very happy to pass it on to another passionate butcher family in Rod and Julie Lever who share the same values in providing our customers with delicious quality meat and great customer service,” Ben said.

    “We want to wish them every success and I`m certain they will impress with what they plan to bring to Edge Hill Butchery.

    “In terms of next chapters for our family, Mum is happily and deservedly about to embrace retirement. She is looking forward to doing some travel and just spending time relaxing, no doubt a bit of babysitting too!

    “For myself, hopefully I’ll have a bit of down time to catch up on life and some projects that have been on hold for a few years at home.

    “Beyond that some further education and challenges to keep learning new skills to take into a brand new chapter in my life.

    “One of the main reasons to move beyond the butcher shop is to spend much more time with my family and friends. My kids deserve to get their Dad back.”

    Ben also had a farewell message for the butcher’s loyal customers.

    “On behalf of our family I would sincerely like to thank all our valued customers past and present for patronising the Edge Hill Butchery over the years,” he said.

    “You have been a big part of our lives for which we are very grateful.

    “The loyal support of so many on a daily basis makes it a fantastic place to work and an even harder place to part ways with. Although I don’t plan on falling off the planet… Edge Hill can`t get rid of me that easily!”