Since opening the Freed Man I have had a growing desire to open another micropub. When I look back on the empty shell that was to become a thriving little pub I get a huge sense of satisfaction. The process is arduous, daunting and sometimes incredibly frustrating. It is also exciting, creative and something I take great pride in. I know there are people out there who are thinking about a life change, who are considering something similar, but who are riven by self-doubt and fear of the unknown. These are all natural responses one experiences when you stand on the edge of your comfort zone, and look down into the swirling grey abyss.
From now on my input to this blog will detail the processes, trials, tribulations and triumphs one experiences when building a small business. Okay, here is step one.
You need to find somewhere to put your pub in; this sounds easy but is one of the more important decisions you will make. I never thought I would put a pub in Upper Walmer. When I moved into the area after giving the Deal Hoy back to Shepherd Neame I popped out for a drink. The Railway Hotel had been sucked dry by Sheps, and was in its death throes. The other pub in the area is owned by a big pub company (pubco), and although there is nothing wrong with the pub itself it didn’t offer what I wanted. As I got to know the area I started thinking that it wasn’t just me and my wife who wanted something different. When the old Post Office came up for rent it ticked a number of boxes: It was the right size, it was the right price and, most importantly I believed that there was a gap in the market. It was still a terrifying prospect though; I had never done anything like it in my life. What finally gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone was something my wife Sharon said to me.
It was Friday evening; she was tired after a hard week at work, we had both eaten, and had settled down in front of the TV drinking supermarket plonk. Then, out of the blue, she said; ‘If there was a decent micropub up the road we would be in there now wouldn’t we?’ We would, I knew we would, and there were more like us out there – there had to be. Well, there was only one way to find out and, the rest as they say is history.
History is repeating itself. After trying, unsuccessfully to secure some really promising premises in the north end of Deal someone mentioned Cheriton. ‘Where?’ I replied, filed the information away, and changed a barrel. Two days later somebody else mentioned Cheriton. Now my ears pricked up, two people in two days; interesting. I did some research and found a couple of empty commercial lets on Cheriton Road; so my wife and I had a wander over.
Cheriton it turns out is a pleasant town that lives in the shadow of Folkstone. The real revelation was we had found a town, about the size of Deal, which had lost most of its pubs. We had also found a commercial property that was the right size, the right price and in the right place. The people were pleasant, and the high street was full of small businesses, cafes and shops. It felt like a community; all it was missing was a great community micropub. I took a deep breath, looked over the edge of the precipice, and stepped off – again.
Coming next – securing the lease.