Mention the Binalong Butchery to Yass Valley and Canberra residents and the usual response is, “Oh, yes! The place with the sausages.”
For many years, people have been travelling to the NSW Southern Tablelands village of Binalong to taste its famous sausages, which are still wrapped in newspaper and tied with string.
Owner Mick Dal Santo demonstrates how he carefully loops the string around his finger, creating a kind of slip knot so it snaps with ease in his 66-year-old hands.
“Busloads line up outside the door just to buy half a kilo of sausages and watch me wrap it in paper and tie it in string,” he says. “Older people love it.”
But soon the secret sausage recipe that’s been handed down through generations will be sold with the business during an auction on Sunday, 6 June, 2021.
Mick has decided that after 28 years it’s time to hang up his apron on 30 June.
“It’s getting too busy for a one-man shop,” he says.
Mick was born in Queanbeyan, the son of an Italian stonemason, and moved to Binalong to be with his sweetheart, Lillian.
After 40 years together, the pair decided to tie the knot in January 2021 and now Lillian has encouraged Mick to retire so they can travel.
“I’d like to keep going, but my wrists are starting to hurt,” he says.
Mick inherited the sausage recipe when he bought the business from Binalong’s former butcher, Charlie Spencer.
It contains nutmeg, wheat flour, mixed herbs and pepper, but Mick remains tight-lipped about the rest.
“People ask me and I say, ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you,'” he says with a laugh.
“You get three types of sausages: good, great and holy hell.”
The sausages at Binalong Butchery are the holy hell kind, insists Mick.
If the new owner decides not to continue the butchery, Mick will sell the secret recipe to another butcher to keep his local fanbase happy.
“I’ll have to,” he says. “I’ve got a big customer base in Canberra.”
Mick’s small, red brick shop stands proudly in the centre of Binalong, a few doors down from Binalong Hotel and opposite the general store.
There is a steady trail of customers all day, calling in for their regular orders.
“Just the usual,” a lady asks, while Mick instinctively bags one kilo of her husband’s favourite sausages.
When asked what his favourite memories are, Mick says his 40th birthday and walks to the back of the shop to pull down a blind created at the time as a surprise that reads: “40 years old, Mick Del’ Sausage-O”.
“They did that while I was out,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
The butchery has been separated into six areas, including the reception, a preparation area, two coolrooms, a sausage preparation room and a private office area.
Mick can’t remember how much he bought the butchery for, but it would have been a bargain back then.
Uncertainty hangs over Binalong’s main street
‘For sale’ signs also hang in Binalong’s Cafe on Queen and The Old Produce Store.
The owners of the village’s only cafe on Queen Street, Adrian Sykes and Jan Giles, say they only ever intended to establish the business and run it for two years.
That was four years ago.
“We want to get out of here and travel,” says Jan.
Adrian agrees: “We’re looking for a young couple to take it over and take it to the next level.”
“On market days, we have us and five girls working in the kitchen, and on a Sunday it’s us and a couple of girls,” says Adrian.
There’s also a gallery in the garden and a shed next door, which is leased by an antique business, adding to the cafe’s income.
Meanwhile, Cathy Kerslake is selling her gift and homewares store – also inclusive of a three-bedroom residence – privately.
The former Yass Valley Information Centre employee opened the doors to The Old Produce Store in 2019 in a bid to promote local products and tourism, including her own range of ‘Bushranger’ teas and candles.
Cathy wasn’t available for comment, but can be contacted on 0409 555 855, or by email, about the sale.