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Brian & Selena Ogden, the Butchers Arms, Warwickshire

“The support has been overwhelming!”

Meet Brian & Selena, who have taken over the Butchers Arms in Warwickshire. In this interview they discuss the advantages of the Punch Foundation Tenancy, the training from Punch and how combined with a recent investment this turned the pub around.

Case Study: Cherry Tree

In December 2016, we invested £215,000 into the Cherry Tree, Wishaw. A year later, we caught up with Publican, Kate, to see how she was getting on.

So, Kate, overall how have you found the last year at the Cherry Tree?

I took over the pub in August 2016 when the pub was really run down and in desperate need of a facelift. The first few months were tough, but once we re-opened in December after the refurbishment it went from strength to strength.

The pub has been transformed into a family friendly, community local pub and we have had a blast over the last 12 months, welcoming customers old and new.

Running a pub is hard work – what made you decide to take on the Cherry Tree?

Running a pub definitely has its challenges, but you can get so much reward from it! I have run pubs previously but wanted a new and exciting challenge, which is exactly what I got from the Cherry Tree.

What was it about the Cherry Tree that caught your eye?

The previous pubs I had run were all wet-led and I really wanted a challenge where I could do food. I live local to the Cherry Tree, but I’d never been in because it was so run down. I was approached by somebody I’d worked with previously and when I saw the plans for what Punch we’re going to do, I decided I had to give it ago, and I’ve never looked back!

What support did you get from Punch prior to going into the pub?

Phenomenal! My previous pub was with a different pub company and I didn’t receive anywhere near as much support as I have from Punch.

I completed the foundation course, which is a week-long, free course offered by Punch. Although I’d already run pubs there was so much more to learn, and this course really helped put me in good stead for making the Cherry Tree a success.

I also had plenty of support from my local area manager and launch manager, who helped with getting everything ready to reveal the new-look. As well as this, I had a catering manager who helped me with all the kitchen equipment, menu ideas and spec books.

How did you find the investment process?

I was kept in the loop from start to finish and was invited to all the meetings with Punch, the designers and the building contractors. The communication from Punch was second to none, they kept me updated with all aspects of the investment. I could go and see the pub whenever I wanted (providing I had a hard hat and steel toe capped boots), which was great, as I saw it develop day by day.

What do you love most about the Cherry Tree’s new-look?

My favourite part about the Cherry Tree now is the family, friendly atmosphere. It’s a real community pub which serves good food and great beer.

What advice would you give somebody looking to take on a Punch pub?

Make sure it’s the right pub for you and that you get to know the area. Get all the support you can and make sure you have great staff – I have fantastic staff and they are often praised on TripAdvisor and Facebook. Your staff can make or break somebodies experience – so make sure you train, encourage and manage your staff well.

The Cherry Tree is situated on Netherton Road in Wishaw, and the investment saw the pub transform into a vibrant and welcoming community pub.

The pub has gone from strength to strength over the last year, and now hosts a popular quiz every Monday, free jukebox on a Friday and offers live entertainment every weekend.

Kelly Henfry, Bulls Head, Countesthorpe

 Meet Kelly, who tells us about her pub, her experience and why she is moving on.

“Relationships we’ve got with the team is amazing!”

“From the moment we enquired here it’s been phenomenal!”

Case Study: The Cotton Tree

Bollington used to have the record for the highest number of pubs per square mile in the UK. The Cotton Tree is still one of them with Mother and Daughter team, Jane and Christina, who have been running the pub for just over two years.

Jane, what was it about the Cotton Tree that caught your eye?

We just loved the pub, it was originally my local, but when I lost my partner I was spending too much time here, so I decided that I needed to be behind the bar rather than in front of it! When we took on the lease, the pub was very simple, white walls, modern art, there wasn’t a ‘cosy’ feel about it; we wanted to restore that.

What changes did you make?

This is a characterful pub, our customers come from all walks of life; we get lots of tradesmen coming in after work, and then the old retired tradesmen coming in and talking to them about the job; they’re normally the early birds. Then, later on, we get the office workers on their way home – some work as far away as London and swing by here to get a pint on their way home for dinner. The weekend brings walkers, tourists and canal boaters.

Taking all of that into consideration, we wanted the pub to reflect all the local industries in the nearby surrounding areas; so we have five distinct areas within the pub.

Bollington was a cotton mill town, so one corner of the pub reflects that with memorabilia and photos from the local discovery centre.

We then have a small mining section with old hats, picks and torches because the area surrounding Bollington was one of the biggest mining areas in the country – it had 75 pits at one point! In the snug, we have the canal area with maps and pictures of the waterways showing the canal that runs through Bollington.

There’s also a railway section, celebrating Middle Wood Way, the old railway line, now a walking track. And finally, in the corridor, some great pictures of the Woodford Aerodrome and the planes they built there, including the Lancaster Bomber. Locals and tourists alike love to be able to walk round the pub and get a whistle-stop tour of the area’s history.

You both wanted to focus on putting this pub back at the heart of the local community; how else have you done that? 

We noticed that a lot of the local, single chaps weren’t getting a proper meal at night, so we started offering food. We do one dish a day, that we describe as an old fashioned “Tea”; on a Wednesday it’s always cheese and onion pie, chips and beans. Throughout the week we do liver and onions, homemade pies; all our produce is from the local butchers and other suppliers; except during shooting season when customers often bring in something to cook up – Canadian Geese was a real challenge last year!

We are just about to embark on a marrow growing competition – customers get the seeds from us and compete against each other. At the end we award a trophy to the best one and then I’ll cook up a marrow and lamb stew for all involved. The customers are embroiled in strategies as we speak; prepping the ground, buying fertiliser and ribbing each other about who will win!

You seem to be incredibly happy being the heart of your community and running The Cotton Tree like an extension of your own home, but what single thing would improve your life as a publican?

Transport is our main issue. The buses stop at 8.30pm in the week, so our older customers can’t spend evenings here. We also lost the Domino team as they couldn’t get here for matches.

But we love how we run this pub, we sometimes have groups of lads that come in here and want to know if we have a TV or Jukebox (we have neither), and then they start chatting to one another or playing board games. Before you know it, they’ve had three pints rather than the one they were planning on having because they’ve enjoyed not having all the other distractions. That makes it all worth it.

Jane and Christina run a traditional, old-fashioned pub that only accepts cash, has no tech capabilities and sees its primary role as that of looking after their tight-knit community.

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