Cardiff butcher Martin Player is closing his Whitchurch shop after 21 years.

Martin broke the news on social media, saying the decision was nothing to do with the pandemic or a lack of support, but that is was time to take a break to spend time with family.

The Whitchurch shop, which opened in 2000, is famed for its top quality, free-range meat and business has boomed since lockdown which has prompted people to shop local.

The 49-year-old told WalesOnline he's been blown away by the reaction to his announcement, saying: "The comments I’ve had have been unbelievable, and from butchers around the country, too - it’s been amazing."

He added that he's not taking early retirement but that long hours and a lack of new blood coming into the industry locally, meant he had to take the tough decision to step back and enjoy life.

"It’s been a busy shop and we’ve got a good reputation," he said, explaining that in an average week, working on the business takes up 75 to 80 hours - and that's despite being shut on a Sunday and Monday.

"But it got to the point that it was getting hard to recruit, my team were getting older, and I was working all the hours in the shop, and catching up with all the other bits that go with it. In the end I thought enough’s enough.

"People thought I might be ill with my post, but I’m getting out while I’m not (ill). I’ve worked with a lot of butchers who work until they drop or they retire and they can’t walk - I don’t want it to come to that," said Martin.

Not only is Martin Player High Class Butcher the butcher of choice for many in Cardiff, it's also racked up the accolades.

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Last June the shop picked up a national award at the 2020 Q Guild of Butchers Smithfield ‘Star’ Awards, for their Welsh beef burger. It's not the first time the shop's burgers have impressed industry judges, scooping accolades in 2013 and 2016.

Regular customers were shocked yesterday as the butcher posted his announcement on Twitter, which read: "It is with great sadness that I announced the closure of Martin Player High Class Butcher.

"This has nothing to do with Covid or lack of support but this last year has made me take a look at what is important. For 21 years I have spent most days working in the shop or behind the scenes. For personal and health reasons I feel it is time to take a break and spend time with the family."

Mr Player went on to thank all customers for their support in the years since they opened and his team of 12 at the shop.

He continued: "When we started out in 2000, I never expected our business to be as successful as it is. The support we have had has been amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting you all and have enjoyed spending time with some of you socially."

Last June Martin told WalesOnline that they couldn't cope with demand, and set up click and collect and delivery services, but the demand was so high, they limited their offering.

Martin explained at the time. "We're still doing deliveries to the vulnerable but we had to stop the click and collect because we just cannot keep it up. We can do one or the other but not both.

"We know how lucky we are, because there are shops not open at the moment and who don't know when they are allowed to open, so we know how lucky we are on that side of it."

Local councillor Jayne Cowan said she was sad to see the shop shutting and had been contacted by constituents sad about the news.

She said: "Martin Player and his team have been an amazing part of Cardiff North life for decades. Martin was always the first person to support a charity or community event, and was supported by a team who were knowledgeable, helpful and always enjoyed their work.

"Although this is sad news for many people, I wish Martin and his family every happiness in the future. "

Although sad to close the shop, Martin has said he'll now be able to take a holiday without worrying about the shop, but he added: "I haven’t timed it right I can’t even go to the pub to celebrate!"