POSTED ON 2nd, November, 2016
I thought the good people of Marbury (and perhaps the bad ones as well) might be wondering what’s happening to the Swan so I’ve set up this little website to keep you informed. I’ll try and update it frequently as we proceed but no promises.
Let me start by introducing myself.
My name is Jerry Brunning and I’m a publican. Or perhaps more accurately I was a publican, then I retired and now I’m about to become a publican again.
In 1981 I started a pub company called Brunning and Price and ran it until 2007 when I sold it. You might know some of my old pubs: The Combermere Arms in Burleydam is the closest but there are quite a few scattered around.
After the company was sold Graham Price, my old partner, carried on running it (and built more pubs locally) and I went home and watched telly. After nearly 10 years I think I’ve seen all the Midsomer Murders so when the Swan came on the market I couldn’t resist it.
After some haggling my offer was accepted (on my 60th birthday) and we completed on June 30th. I took possession on 26th September when Colin and Faye, the current tenants, left.
Back in 1981 I only had one pub, the Bell at Outwood in Surrey and I ran it myself for three years. During the course of the second year I took a brewery tenancy, The Fox Revived in Norwood Hill. A year later I sold the Bell making a much-needed capital gain (I’d borrowed the whole purchase price) and bought two more brewery tenancies. I then decided to come back home to Cheshire and, through my mate Martin Taylor, applied for permission to turn the basement of his shop into a pub. So Old Harkers was born. Then came the Grosvenor Arms, then the Pant yr Ochain etc, etc until, by 2007 we (Graham Price joined me in 1989) had 16 pubs.
I think it’s true to say that I have done every job in the pub business from cleaning the loos after someone’s been ill to raising the finance. Whether those long ago acquired skills are still relevant today I don’t know – we’re about to find out.
In a nutshell, we are going to close the pub down for a year. During this time we’ll completely refit the place so that we end up with a decent village pub, food orientated but still with a good regular pub side, in good nick, with nice people running it.
I probably won’t be there very often myself but that won’t matter (in fact it might help – I’m a grumpy old bugger) because my supremo, Darren Snell will be in charge. I’ll tell you about him in the next posting and I’ll tell you more about the plans for the pub as they become clearer.
There’s some real dyed in the wool talent hanging around trying to get this pub working.
The most important person in the team is Darren Snell who will be actually running the Swan. He trained as a chef in the 70’s at Southport College and has worked in many famous kitchens and for many well-known chefs including Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester, one my favourites.
In his chef days he worked extensively in London and the South but also for long periods in Switzerland, California and New Zealand. Graham and I poached him from his last post as the head chef of a restaurant in NZ to come and run the Dysart Arms for us. He had never run a pub and we had never employed a manager who had never run a pub. Darren took to the business like a hand into a glove and has had a passion for pubs ever since. I suspect he has enjoyed the pub years more than winning all those awards in his chef days.
For the last 20 years he’s been mostly in this part of Cheshire. After the Dysart he ran his own pub the Black Lion in Nantwich and now joins me again for this new venture.
Also with me is my younger brother Francis who used to be the property manager for Brunning and Price and has built over 50 pubs. In the early days he also ran many of the B and P pubs in between building them and is hugely experienced in all aspects of the business. Like me he has done every job in the business.
Sadly none of us is in the first flush of youth. Darren’s the youngest at 55, and between us the years we’ve notched up in the pub world would earn us a standing ovation at Lords, if pubs were cricket. So here we are, striding out to take the crease once again…