The Carpenters Arms Westrip-Stroud – A family and friends’ enterprise

The pub has re-opened after a six-month closure and is now a Freehouse owned by Sammy, her partner Gordon and their two children. It was previously owned by a PubCo which could not make it profitable. Sammy was born in Arlingham, about 10 miles away, the youngest of seven and moved to Randwick (an adjacent village) when she was 2. Her mum and dad still live there, and she lived there most of her life until she moved out when she married.

I am very local and so the pub is an ideal new project, with the children going to school just down the valley. We used to come here and drink here when younger. When the pub became available, we just had to have it. My uncle David and Julie have run the Black Horse at Cranham for over 30 years. I worked there for years and loved it. I grew up working there in the kitchen as a teenager and then graduated to the bar which I absolutely loved. I loved the community feel and the customers.

However, when she started a family the evening shifts didn’t really work for her and her family, so she moved into commercial radio in a local radio station in Stroud. She helped with business sales and how to market their goods successfully, moving later to working in Cheltenham, managing the local region for commercial sales. However, the draw of getting back into hospitality and taking over a pub was too enticing, ‘It was very different, and I left there just two weeks ago, when we took over this pub. My husband is carrying on his day job as an insurance broker in Bristol, for now, but hopefully he will come a bit closer to Stroud to continue his work’.

Her family are playing a large part in this new venture.

Dad’s been fantastic and although he is in his 70’s he still works everyday and because he owns a builder’s merchant, he has been able to get some renovation materials easily. He suspended his normal work for two weeks and worked here, repointing the fireplace and fixing the guttering because the water was coming back into the building. My mother has been very supportive looking after the children after school, keeping them entertained. She was also emotional support for as we wondered whether we had done the right thing.

Their friends are also part of this venture, for example,

When it became clear that the curtains we had ordered were not going to arrive in time for the opening one of them said ‘don’t worry Sammy I’ll go and get some material and run them up’ – just 2 hours before opening. Her sister in law was at the pub in the two weeks leading up to the reopening, painting and helping get ready as well as organising a baby shower and an anniversary celebration at the pub just to make sure we have a good first weekend.

Living locally all their life this family have lots of friends who ‘they sure are going to make extra efforts to support us’’.

Sammy’s commercial experience is extremely helpful as a publican not only because she has a grounding in ‘hospitality’ due to going to catering college, but she has for some years now been working with small businesses and getting to know in detail their marketing needs. She has learnt to know what works, in terms of marketing and the trials and tribulations of running businesses, ‘I have been a shoulder to cry on and organised events for them’. She has valuable experience of forecasting, profit and loss spreadsheets, accountancy and organised the ‘Local Heroes’ award for the local radio station. ‘I enjoyed local radio but still wanted to get back into the hospitality industry and do something for myself and my family. My experience will mainly be on running the pub and being front of house although I can help in the kitchen’.

The new chef is a friend she first worked with at the Black Horse Cranham some years ago. She put a message on her immediate friends Facebook messenger list asking for a chef. A few replied and then Karen said ‘I’ll come and work for you. So, my friend will take control of the kitchen and all the ordering, while I run the business side and front of house which I enjoy. We also have another local helping in the kitchen and lots of lovely local bar staff’.

They hope to be a pub that provides for a wide diversity of villager’s interests and visitors to the local area.

We have a sports TV subscription for our interested villagers and it comes with a race package. When the main Cheltenham Final Jump season event begins in March, we will be inviting people to sign up for breakfast and ferry them over to the track on a shuttle bus and return, hopefully for a meal. Or they can stay and watch it on the TV. I love the Cheltenham Races. I used to look after some of my clients for the race meetings and so went over there quite a lot. We hope to have on the 6 Nations Rugby.

They plan to have; a Friday Family Fun session in December from 3.30-6pm including festive crafts, and food available; a Saturday hour long walk in December with refreshments on return; a regular quiz night; Carols at Christmas with the Salvation Army; pop up pizza nights and Saturday live music events as well as a Caribbean New Year’s Eve Party to welcome in 2020.

They are attached to Severn Brewing,

because they put in our stillage and they also have a distributing company that can get ales from all over the country. We are only expected to have one of their ales on and the other two pumps could be our choice, either from their distributor or breweries we choose. We pride ourselves on being a Freehouse. We are considering having thirds available so drinkers can try all three ales for the cost of a pint, and we carry two real ciders. I like the idea of an ale blackboard showing what’s coming.

They want to be more consistent with opening hours than the pub has been in the past ‘welcoming walkers along the Cotswold Way who will enjoy this fabulous view over the Stroud Valley’. They are keen to develop the open area outside, use the Bar-B-Que building more often and bring the pub ‘back to life’. They have booked a Hog Roast weekend to launch their summer activity.

They want to have good relations with the other village pubs in the immediate area, at Randwick, Cashes Green, Paganhill, Randwick and Whiteshill.

We didn’t have Sunday lunch on the first weekend we opened so mum and dad went up to the Vine Tree at Randwick where Lajos cooks a wonderful lunch. The publicans at the Crown in Paganhill helped me out when I was having problems with my new till and had run out of printing paper and she gave us some. She is lovely and it’s a very popular pub. I would like to come up with some initiatives that involves all of us for January such as a walking route between us all. However, we don’t want to be doing what our neighbouring pubs are doing so we will keep an eye on their ale and meal preferences and hope to provide something different so we can all keep our individuality. We will be doing good traditional pub food providing country fare which we pride ourselves on doing – no fine dining for us.

They want to give everything a go and see how it works. This new Freehouse is built on strong family foundations and on close lifelong connections with the villagers of Westrip. The combination of all the family, friends and villagers’ skills, enthusiasm and determination will hopefully ensure a stable and productive base for this village pub to survive for many decades. If Sammy’s infectious enthusiasm and commitment is anything to go by this village pub will continue to be a vital community centre.