Butcher profile: David Gigli, Gigli’s, Lytham St Annes

  • 28.06.2023
  • article
  • Abattoirs
  • Lifestyle
  • Meat
  • Sustainable Livestock
  • Marianne Landzettel

In our series of butcher profiles, food and farming writer, Marianne Landzettel, meets butchers from across the UK who have built their business around high welfare, sustainably produced meat. David Gigli has made his shop a destination – it’s a butcher’s with a bistro serving breakfast and lunch (and occasionally dinner), where you can hear a talk on how to barbecue or take course on butchery, putting ‘diversification’ centre stage.

A perfectly cooked, deep green stem of purple sprouting broccoli tops the Golden Cleaver award winning ox cheek on mash. The barista style espresso machine gleams behind the counter. A doorway in the open brick wall allows customers a glimpse into the adjacent butcher’s shop with its polished white tiles, and a simple but elegant backlit sign tells you where you are: this is Gigli’s, a butcher’s, bistro and coffeeshop in Lytham St Annes, just south of Blackpool.

“I wanted Gigli’s to become a destination,” says David Gigli, “a place people come to for food. Hopefully, customers like what they eat and then stock up in the shop. Or they come for the shop and stay for a coffee and a bite to eat.” Gigli opened the bistro in 2019 but had to close it just a few months later because of the pandemic. Since the end of COVID-19 restrictions, things have been going well. Marc Armistead, the full-time chef, now serves between 80 and 100 customers each shift; he particularly enjoys the freedom Gigli gives him to create specials and new menu items.

The bistro serves breakfast and lunch, but at least once a month there will be a themed evening with a set menu – a French night is coming up in July. Gigli also uses the space to give talks on how to barbecue and smoke meats and for one-day butchery courses that teach participants a variety of techniques such as how to spatchcock a chicken. “We don’t do this for the money. We want to make people aware of the business and hopefully they will come back to the bistro and the shop.”

Gigli always wanted to own and run his own business. In the early 1980s, when Gigli left school aged 16, the economic situation in Lancashire, including his hometown, Preston, was dire. The question was not what his dream job might be, but what profession might allow him to earn a living. His mum, “a very good cook who served the family a meat dish with two veg every night of the week”, suggested a career in food might be his best option “because people will always need to eat”. After two years at Blackpool and Fylde College, he got a job with a local butcher. “I enjoyed going to work, the atmosphere was good, the colleagues were nice, and it was great to earn money.”

He perfected his carcase butchering skills, but all processed items such as sausages were bought in. When the butcher sold his shops to a national chain, Gigli decided it was time to “spread his wings” and acquire meat processing skills. A Spanish butcher in Oxfordshire taught him about sausage making, curing and smoking, but after two years of feeling homesick, Gigli returned to Preston. And in 1987, aged just 21, he realised his dream and opened his own butchery in St Annes. “I got my own business too early,” he says today. “It was a difficult time, interest rates were at 15%, my debit card was constantly maxed out and the takings in the shop dropped by 50% in the first month.” The previous owner had had lucrative contracts, supplying meat to seafront hotels and restaurants, but Gigli lacked experience in butchery for catering and most restaurateurs “just didn’t trust such a young kid to fulfil their orders”. The first 10 years were really bad, Gigli says today. “I had a huge amount of debt, I felt angry, I was scared and if my parents hadn’t put up their home as collateral, I would have quit.”

The trajectory changed in the early 90s, when Gigli attended a talk by a craft butcher who spoke about the necessity for businesses to diversify in order to survive. Gigli took the message to heart and invested in a hog-roasting oven, something no other butcher in the region had. He started working on Friday and Saturday nights, catering at parties and weddings. The shop had always made and sold traditional meat pies, and by the late 90s Gigli was selling pies wholesale. With five staff members and a hand-operated pie filling machine, he was producing up to 8000 pies a week. He desperately needed more production space.

In 2008, he was able to initially rent and later buy the premises of another butchers and also an adjacent sandwich shop, just a quarter of a mile down the road from his own business. With a kitchen, big fridges and freezer space, the new location was perfect not only for producing pies, but with accompanying ample parking space, the sales picked up too. “We made more on a single Saturday than we did all week in the other shop.”

Gigli has two sons, Joe who is 29 and joined the business 11 years ago and his younger brother Harry, aged 23, who trained as a butcher and has been a full staff member for five years. “When your kids join the business, you start thinking differently, you want them to have a secure future,” says Gigli. Opening the bistro seemed like a good direction to take. “A lot of what we do now has to do with creating an experience and telling a story,” says Gigli. His son Joe is not only looking after the accounts, he is also responsible for customer care and social media. The ‘Join the Herd’ loyalty scheme rewards returning customers and is a good way to promote upcoming events and special offers at the bistro and the shop. “People need to better understand what we do,” says Gigli as he opens the door to the dry aging cabinet behind the meat counter. “When I tell a customer that this is a 28-day dry aged steak, they should be able to see where it is aged.”

All of the meat sold in the shop comes from within a 30-mile radius. Gigli buys beef directly from a farmer near Preston. The animals are slaughtered at a small abattoir nearby, and the farmer delivers on average three beef halves per week directly to the shop. All other meat comes from a wholesaler who sources the animals locally. Per week, six slightly fattier pigs are needed for bacon, two leaner ones for meat. All meat is butchered by Gigli, and his son Harry helps with sausage and pie making.

At the end of June, David Gigli will take over as president of the National Craft Butchers trade association from George Debman. Apart from further growing the membership, Gigli would like to make the knowledge and expertise of the members more accessible within the organisation. “We need something like a ‘black book’ with contacts that help you with sourcing, with finding advice and information.” 

The cooler cabinet at Gigli’s not only holds meat cuts, sausages, bacon and a huge variety of kitchen ready products, from Italian meatballs to apple-pork-pinwheels, there is also a wide choice of everything anyone could need for a barbecue, from charcoal, apple and oak wood, to sauces, rubs and different salts. “I love barbecued meat,” says Gigli and shows me the barbecue grill stationed outside. “The first thing I do when I come in the morning is fire it up.” The grill holds five to six kilos of meat, and it takes several hours until it’s done, ready to go into baps and wraps. Until then, the enticing and mouth-watering aroma of wood smoke will hang in the air, apple wood for pork, oak for brisket.

What’s next for Gigli’s? Who knows, says David Gigli who has learnt to use opportunities when they present themselves. When the tenant in the flat above the shop left, the Gigli family turned it into an Airbnb. And more floor space may become available in the building, should the take-away business move out. “Maybe someone wants to open an ice cream parlour there, or a microbrewery,” says Gigli. As he has been finding out since the 1990s, diversification can take you in many directions.


To find out more about Gigli’s, visit giglislythamstannes.com.

With thanks to National Craft Butchers for helping us to develop this series. To find out more, visit NationalCraftButchers.co.uk.

Photos by @M.Kunz.

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