Expleo Butchery and Deli
A family owned butchery and delicatessen in Te Awamutu.
Expleō Butchery and Delicatessen is a butchery in Te Awamutu, and much more besides. Family owned and operated, its customers keep coming back for premium grass-fed, free-range, organic, New Zealand grown meat and poultry, as well as a range of delectable hand-crafted smallgoods and other products. Regulars appreciate the old-fashioned welcome called out as they walk in the door, knowing this is local business that supports its local community.
Located on a side street in the Waikato town of Te Awamutu, a veritable foodie heaven and a warm welcome awaits, whether you are a regular customer or happen to stumble on this house of gourmet delights that range from premium cuts of pasture-raised meats, and small goods like sausages and dry-aged bacon, to handcrafted brawn, black pudding, salami, biltong, pâté and terrines. Owned by the Nicholas family it is located in Mahoe Street next door to another proudly local food business, Red Kitchen.
Husband and wife Shawn and Nells Nicholas set up Expleō three-plus years ago to provide their growing family with a second income stream – and because they love good food. For the past 20 years they have also contract milked 720 dairy cows in nearby Honikiwi.
Shawn, who first learnt to appreciate the art of butchery from his grandfather who was a boning room foreman, worked as a freezing works supervisor for a short period before returning to the dairy farming he grew up with in Taranaki.
For Shawn and Nells, it is a seven-day working week as they split their time between the dairy farm and the growing Expleō business; and theirs is a lifetime commitment too, to helping out in their community.
Expleō not only feeds Shawn’s passion for butchery, it gives young people in the community a chance as well. They employ family and young local people in the butchery business.
On the family side there is Shawn’s mother Christine who is the creative behind many of the artisanal products, son William who has just begun his butchery apprenticeship, daughter Missy who lends a hand where needed and is front of shop – and even their intermediate school aged younger daughter Sarah Kate who also likes to help out after her lessons.
Locals carving out careers at Expleō include Angus McMillan, who is now 18 months into his butchery apprenticeship. Another youthful local has been asking for a job at the butchery since he was 14 years of age and now has a permanent part-time job there. Then there is a Te Awamutu teen who is autistic and comes in twice weekly to help wash dishes and has also learnt how to weigh meat for patties that are purchased by a restaurant in the town.
Nells says: “He lives quite a sheltered life and before coming to us he had no job skills or prospects. It’s such a pleasure to see him with a smile on his face, interacting with our other young staff and learning how to work. Shawn and I are happy we’re able to give him a chance”.
For Shawn and Nells, whose customers include Te Awamutu locals and people in surrounding areas like Cambridge and Hamilton, as well as those who buy online, it is also about giving back to their community through tasty, nutritious food. During the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown last year, they provided needy families with boxes of fresh meat and other goodies, and as they are just a small business with not-so-deep pockets, they invited customers to also help out with donations. They spread the news about the offer – and the opportunity to help support it – via social media and word of mouth. Shawn and Nells were delighted that many of their regulars came to offer help as well.
To spread cheer at Christmastime, they teamed up with the local police to identify families in need. The offer was a Christmas chook. This involved the police issuing not tickets or summonses, but Expleō vouchers for a chicken to roast for Christmas dinner – and free-range chicken at that. Nells tells the story of a local who had benefited from a meat parcel and asked whether she could have another. Nells’ initial reaction was that there was only so much that they could give away and that it needed to be shared around. As she began to explain, the woman interjected, offering for one of her young family members to work at Expleō a few hours a week in return for meat for the family.
Expleō has its local community at heart, as did many of the butchers and other businesses in smaller towns around the country. The welcome to the shop is old fashioned too, where staff call out a greeting to customers, many of whom they know by name.
Completing the scene are the glass-fronted display cabinets where fresh cuts of meat are on show, as well as Expleō’s range of small goods. Among the traditional products with quite a following is Shawn’s take on black pudding. Just what makes this specialty so special is a house secret, of course. Then there is the cheese cabinet that offers customers a one-stop-shop of wedges and chunks of epicurean cheeses, most of them New Zealand-made including by Over the Moon in the South Waikato town of Putaruru. There are some imported French cheeses too which are popular with Expleō’s continental customers.
Along with customers who come in for meat and a chat, and customers who order online to have their meat delivered, Expleō also supplies wholesale meat to many of Waikato’s restaurants and cafés. One is Punnett in nearby Tamahere which orders 50 kgs of aged bacon each week – “all made here by hand in our little smoker”, says Shawn.
Fresh bread and fresh vegetables round out the in-store offerings from local suppliers like Cato’s Potatoes and Tomtit Farm, allowing customers to make a balanced, nutritious regional meal of their trip to their local butcher.
Showdown Productions Ltd. Rural Delivery Series 16 2021