A YORKSHIRE DALES smokehouse is gearing up for a business expansion which could bring a valuable jobs boost to one of North Yorkshire's most remote rural areas.
Mackenzie's Yorkshire Smokehouse at Blubberhouses produces a range of smoked meats, fish and cheeses, which feature in some of the country's top shops and restaurants including Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
We have invested in new smokehouse equipment, but the basic smoking method, using fine oak chips, has remained the same. It is important to us that we maintain the high quality of our products
Robert Crowson - Mackenzie's Yorkshire Smokehouse
Now, with the help of a grant of over £75,000 from Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES), the business has expanded with the conversion of redundant workshop buildings into business units that are now available for rent to possible craft and food-related businesses.
Owners Robert and Stella Crowson also used the grant to expand their existing smokehouse shop. When fully leased the entire development could create up to 20 jobs, helping to sustain communities in the Nidderdale Valley, officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Crowsons also hope that, when fully occupied, the new businesses units and expanded shop will combine to create a new food-themed visitor attraction for local people and tourists.
Managing Director Robert Crowson explained: "We only recently started advertising the units and we have had a lot of interest so far.
"We are hoping the units will be occupied by food or craft related businesses which will fit well with the smokehouse and smokehouse shop providing an added incentive to visit the area."
The business units are just the latest chapter in the on-going development of the smokehouse business. Food smoking has taken place at Wood Nook farm since 1935 - the farm is the site where the original York Ham brand was developed. The Crowsons, backed by Stella's catering background, bought the business in 1997. The husband and wife team have since expanded the business and now employ a workforce of 14. Last year Mackenzie's notched up a record £1 million turnover.
Smoked salmon and chicken remain the best sellers in the Mackenzie smokehouse range, but they also offer smoked venison, duck, trout and kippers, plus a selection of smoked cheeses.
Over the years the Crowsons have developed a strong wholesale market for their products, but thanks to improved marketing and branding, they are also now developing new retail markets, particularly in the growing network of regional farm shops.
They are considering possible further expansion at the Wood Nook Farm site with plans to convert an existing building into a 40-seat restaurant.
Mr Crowson continued: "Our products are meeting a demand for quality regional food - although we have expanded the business over the years, we are not planning to move into any form of mass production.
"We have invested in new smokehouse equipment, but the basic smoking method, using fine oak chips, has remained the same. It is important to us that we maintain the high quality of our products."