John Margetts of Margetts Meats prepares a lamb from Anahim Lake. Margetts has called the Cariboo home all his life

They Call the Cariboo Home: Margetts Meats a part of Cariboo food industry

John Margetts arrived in the Cariboo on May 30, 1948.

John Margetts arrived in the Cariboo on May 30, 1948.

“I was born in the hospital when it was where city hall is today,” Margetts says.

His parents had arrived in Williams Lake from Vancouver two years before. His father, originally from Toronto, and his mother, originally from Vancouver, were tired of city life. They came north with another couple and stayed. The other couple returned to Vancouver.

On a busy Tuesday afternoon at Margetts Meats, the butcher shop Margetts and his wife Maureen opened up in September 1985, Margetts cuts up a lamb from Anahim Lake.

The store is steadily busy, but in between customers, and as long as he can keep working, Margett shares some of his life’s details.

He was the second oldest of four children — three boys and a girl. His first two years of school were at 150 Mile School because his parents were running the 150 Mile Hotel at the time.

In fact, there’s a framed black and white photograph of the hotel hanging behind the till of the store.

“We lived in a little white house beside the hotel. Then my dad finished there and then owned Williams Lake Radiator shop for a few years and we commuted until we found a place in town around 1954,” Margetts said, adding the house was located on Second Avenue where Excelsior Jewellers and Scotia Bank are today.

Margetts attended Parkside School, situated where the Williams Lake Library is now, and from there went to Marie Sharpe elementary school, Williams Lake secondary and then was part of the first class to graduate from Columneetza Secondary School in 1967.

He played a “little bit” of high school basketball — the norm for someone that stands six foot four. He used to be six foot five, he said, but is kind of “shrinking a little.”

His greater sports love was hockey and throughout the years his experience included playing in minor hockey and for the Stampeders in Williams Lake, for a Junior A team in Victoria, the Calgary Centennials and in 1970 he played intermediate hockey for one year in Port Alberni.

After one year back with the Stampeders and working at National Grain in Williams Lake, he headed to Australia for six months in 1974 and 1975, team roping and calf roping in rodeos.

By 1975 he was back in Williams Lake to stay and at that time met Maureen. She’d arrived in the lake city from Chilliwack to work as a school teacher. The couple were married in 1977 and have one son, J.D., who works for Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX as a technical director in the theatre department.

A year after his return, Margetts began working in a small slaughter plant in Glendale.

“I also surveyed for the Department of Highways for about three or four years, and then picked up odd jobs until 1984. In 1985 a small butcher shop in town had closed up so I thought, I have some experience cutting meat.”

After doing a bunch of phone surveys and running around asking people what they thought, he and Maureen opened up Margetts Meats in a spot where Mulberry Lane is today. In the same area where his family home was located on Second Avenue.

The shop remained in that spot until 1994 when he relocated to People’s Foods where the Chevron Bulk Plant is off Hwy. 20.

“I leased a space there until it closed down in 2002 due to big stores’ hours being changed and in June 2002 I moved to this location. It was a garage before and the landlord did some improvements for me.”

Today there are five people working full-time and a couple of people part-time. The store is always busy with serving customers coming from Bella Coola, the Chilcotin, and 100 Mile House aside from Williams Lake and the surrounding areas.

He sells organic turkeys from the Hutterites in Farmington, north of Dawson Creek, he brings smoked fish from Bella Coola and fresh fish from Vancouver.

They have their own smoke house for preparing sausage and bacon occasionally.

When asked if he eats meat, he chuckles, and says “yes.”

Throughout his career he has seen some changes.

“In the last five years, with the mad cow scare people have really been concerned about where their meat is coming from. That’s a big question. With all the meat recalls people have been more cautious.

Outside of work, Margetts is a director on the Williams Lake Stampede board of directors. His main focus are gates and parking during the Stampede each year. He also likes to putter in the yard at home.

He’d like to golf more often than he gets out to, but hopes one day that will change.

Margetts loves living in Williams Lake. The proximity to things makes life easy and people are friendly, he says.

Maureen is already retired — she left teaching after the school she was teaching at, Poplar Glade, burnt down.

At this point the plan is stay here after retirement.

Margetts has not ruled out travelling, although he doesn’t see himself being a “snowbird” he says.

Away from work for eight weeks recently, due to a knee injury, Margetts says as much as he didn’t want to be away from work, it was reassuring to see how well his staff kept the shop running smoothly.

“They really stepped up and did a good job and I had an excellent rest. I’ve never had that much time off at one time before.”

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