St Kilda Bites Food Icon Peter Gruner – Not just an ordinary butcher!

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Local St Kilda identity, Peter Gruner laments the advent of the big supermarkets and the impersonal way fresh meat and smallgoods are offered to the public these days, but as he quips: “you have to adapt to the times!”. Back in the 1950’s, St Kilda supported 15 butcher shops and now Gruners happens to be the only one remaining, because he was one of the few to adapt. Gruners, a household name in Barkly Street St Kilda for 54 years, is famous as a provider of fresh meats and quality continental small goods, still hand made on the premises. Peter Gruner has held the mantle there for 37 of those years!

Peter, born in Hungary, arrived with his parents Rose and Andrew in Melbourne at the age of 15. Shortly after, his parents commenced the family butcher shop in 1958 at the very same location it is today, 227A Barkly Street. Peter attended Elwood High School and his hard working Hungarian parents struggled to establish the family butcher shop in difficult times, and like all European migrants in the 1950’s, they worked day and night 7 days a week to do so.

Gruners Butcher

Peter would religiously assist his parents on weekends and the summer holidays every year till he attended University. Gruners fast became a popular outlet in St Kilda and, of course, because of their Hungarian heritage (and previous experience) Rose and Andrew were the only butchers to introduce home made small goods in the area. They hand made their famous Chorizo, Csabai, and Hungarian Salamis in the front shop which is still there today. Peter continues to manufacture today but on a far larger scale; producing for wholesale supply to restaurants and food outlets all over Melbourne’s suburban areas. But of course these much sought after, delicious sausages and salamis, along with the personally selected fresh butcher meat cuts, are still served over the counter by Peter personally, or one his friendly staff, at Gruners.

What ‘knocked me dead’ whilst interviewing Peter recently, was my surprise discovery about his remarkable academic history; Peter had an equally successful food technology and manufacturing career before he finally came to join his parents! A most unexpected qualification and employment background for a butcher, but no ordinary butcher as it turns out!

He studied for years at Melbourne RMIT, and received a degree in Bio Chemistry, then a Diploma in Food Technology. Peter then embarked upon a 13 year career that took him to Brokoff  Biscuits as a Laboratory manager, then Tom Piper Foods, and finally to Quaker Oats and Pet Foods as an assistant to the general manager. It wasn’t until 1975 that he succumbed and threw his lot in with his parents at the Barkly Street shop. By this stage his parents were growing tired after 17 years of hard work in the retail industry and he basically came to their rescue.

The rest is history, as he launched a substantial expansion to the manufacturing side of the business at further premises behind the Gruners shop and built a small factory which is in operation with half a dozen staff. Suffice to say: Peter is an intelligent, dedicated and engaging professional, and a major contributor to the commercial reputation and rich food tradition of St Kilda! We are proud to call him our ‘Food Icon’ of St Kilda.

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