By Britney Pagliuca
Mckay Coneybeare, the son of Coneybeare’s Butcher Shop owner Chris Coneybeare, loves it when customers ask him if their shop has opened recently. It means he gets to reply with a smile and a glowing: “No, we’ve actually been here since the 1940s.”
The Coneybeares have been practicing the trade which has been passed down through the family for nearly a century, serving the community of Minden with pride, gratitude, and expertise.
The legacy of Coneybeare’s Butcher Shop started with Harry Easton, Chris’s great step-grandfather, who came to Haliburton from Sussex, England in 1924 at the age of 51. Easton married Amy Coneybeare, who had lost her husband, William Arthur Coneybeare, during the First World War.
Easton came from a family of butchers in England and had learned the trade during his youth. When he moved to Canada, he had plans to open his own shop and continue working as a butcher. According to The Lindsay Daily Post in 1925, he fulfilled his plans and successfully opened a butcher shop in Haliburton.
Moving to Minden in 1931, Easton soon relocated the butcher shop to its current location on the main street in Minden.
Chris reminds us that their butcher shop operated much differently in the 1940s than it does today. “They used to pick up live cattle from the train station in Gelert,” he said, “and then walk them to the slaughterhouse just off of South Lake Road.”
Chris recalls that in the early 1950s, Easton’s Butcher Shop became The Red and White, a grocery store that sold produce, fresh meats, and other goods. “It changed around the same time that the Dollo brothers came to town, Peter and Joe,” Chris said. “They had set up a produce stand in conjunction with Easton’s Meat Market and went on to establish Dollo’s IGA, who would become our competitors.”
It was also during this time that the shop was taken over by Chris’ grandfather, William Arthur “Bill” Coneybeare, and Bill’s half-brother, Lance Easton. Though Lance eventually moved on to open Easton’s Red and White in Haliburton.
The Red and White operated until 1981 when Chris’ father, William Alan “Cub” Coneybeare, decided to close it and convert the space back into a butcher shop – Coneybeare’s Butcher Shop.
Chris says that his favourite memory from working at the shop in those days was calling up his grandfather to ask if he would come and wrap the meat for him. “This is when I’d get to hear all the stories about the history of the shop,” he said.
Chris received the family business eight years later in 1989, following a tradition of passing on the business that has been upheld since its inception – and is soon to continue.
Over the past year, Chris has partially retired, and now his kids, Mckay and Lily have taken over all shop operations at Coneybeare’s. They have been working at the shop from a young age, just like their father did before them, learning the trade from generations of family knowledge.
Siblings Lily and Mckay both agreed that one of the best ways to learn from their dad was to watch carefully and take their time with the cuts. “My dad always says that every time we cut a piece of meat, it should look like something you’d want to eat,” Mckay said. “We always use that as a rule of thumb.”
Lily said that she’s often asked if she went to school to be a butcher, but the kind of knowledge she and Mckay have acquired by learning from Chris extends beyond desks and textbooks.
“We learn by doing,” Mckay said, remembering the first time he ran the show on his own during a busy, long weekend. “It was something I never thought I could do until I did.”
Chris had always hoped that he would be able to pass on the business to his kids. “It’s an awesome feeling knowing that they want to keep the business within the family,” he said. “They’re doing such a good job and coming up with ideas that I would have never thought of myself.”
Though Chris did the same in his time, as well. Before Chris took over, the shop primarily supplied restaurants and filled freezer orders. He extended the shop to allow for a retail space and brought in a display counter so that customers were able to come in and place an order.
Chris says he can clearly remember the first day he made these additions. “I sat on a chair in the front room and waited to see if people would come,” he said. And they did.
With Mckay and Lily in the driver’s seat, the pair have made some changes of their own.
In March 2023, the shop saw extensive renovations that included new floors, a fresh coat of paint, and a new countertop. And Mckay has taken the lead on developing new product ideas like stuffed and marinated meats.
The pair have also been utilizing social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, to promote sales and new products. “When I started at the shop again after finishing school, one of the first things I did was set up an email and create a website,” Lily said. They have found that using online platforms has helped reach a larger audience and encourages people from outside of Minden to visit the shop.
Although there have been many changes over the years, one thing has remained constant: Coneybeare’s Butcher Shop is where many of us get our Thanksgiving turkeys or summertime steaks. And it’s still run by the same family of butchers who opened shop back in 1925.
“It’s not a story that you hear much of these days,” Lily said.
Mckay said that another thing that has remained constant is Coneybeare’s willingness to support community initiatives and charities. “We still choose to donate to causes that my dad did, and my grandfather before that,” he said, “like the Minden Food Bank, Rotary and Legion.”
The Coneybeares are not only proud of the business they have built and sustained but are also immensely grateful to the community that supports them.
When Chris was asked what it meant to him that the business has stayed in his family for all these years, it was hard for him to find the words. “It means the whole world to me,” he said.