Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
THE BIG INTERVIEW: Pub trade's far from dead - here's proof
PAUL Pearson, 35, and Nicole Calver, 31, have managed the Dockle Farmhouse pub in Bridge End Road for six years. They recently spoke out to help remind the world at large of the major role pubs play in the local economy. The couple live in Swindon.
THERE are those who say pubs are dying – that the economy and the smoking ban mean people would rather stay at home instead.
Paul Pearson and Nicole Calver beg to differ.
Last week the British Beer and Pub Association said Swindon’s licensed trade had an economic output of £70m, and the couple are proud of their contribution.
“It’s not just somewhere where people will come and have a drink,” said Nicole.
“They come and have coffee, they come and have food. Families come in, older people come in.
“We raise a lot of money for charity – CLIC Sargent and Helen and Douglas House.” (The former helps children with cancer and the latter offers hospice care.) Paul said: “The culture is definitely changing. I suppose we’re becoming more of a convenience.
“It’s convenient to bring your family out for a good value meal and drinks without having to cook, without having to do the dishes. It’s definitely a hub for people to meet and do things in the community.”
The couple said pubs are also increasingly venues for networking, business meetings, work appraisals and job interviews, as well as more familiar functions such as wedding and Christening celebrations.
Paul is from Plymouth. His father was an electrician and his mother a nurse. Nicole is from Norwich. She said: “My mum worked in a pub when I was younger, and my dad was a delivery driver.”
Both began their pub careers early. Nicole said: “I moved to Plymouth when I was 18 and started working in a pub down there. I went from just bar staff to team leader to manager. It took about two years.”
Paul studied film and media at Buckinghamshire University.
He said: “I started working for Wetherspoons as a barman for three years when I was at university as a bar-stroke-floor worker.
“When I finished at university I was promoted in the company to shift manager through to deputy manager then pub manager, and that took about two years as well.”
The couple met while working at the Gog and Magog pub in Plymouth, where Nicole was a shift manager and Paul a deputy manager.
Paul said: “I was promoted to pub manager but I had to leave the area of Plymouth because it’s quite a difficult place to get promoted. We moved to Stroud, where I was a pub manager and Nicole was what we call an experienced grade four manager – the top of the shift manager programme.
“We were there for a year and did quite well there. It was quite a small pub. Then we were asked to move to Swindon, to The Savoy, where we both became managers.”
After 18 months Paul was put in charge of the new Sir Daniel Arms while Nicole remained in charge of The Savoy. The couple were then asked to team up once more and run the Dockle Farmhouse.
As youngsters the two had had other ambitions. Nicole wanted to be a graphic designer – she still draws – and Paul a footballer, but each is delighted with the path they took.
Paul said: “It’s the freedom of being the boss. Even though, obviously, we have people to report to, we have that flexibility of knowing where we’re going to be at any given point in time.”
Nicole said: “It’s the variety. It’s never the same from day to day.
“It can be very stressful at times but when you see happy customers, and see staff progress, knowing that you have helped them develop, it’s quite rewarding.”
The two are anxious to promote the industry as a fine career option for people willing to put in plenty of hard work from the beginning, and cite their own progress through the ranks as proof.
They like to set others on the same journey – one of their trainee managers was unemployed and had no experience in their trade as recently as last year.
Paul said: “This is our pub. Even though it’s a company pub and we don’t own it, we’ve shaped it to be what it is today. We can look back on that and say we’ve really achieved something here. Six years’ record sales and six years’ record profits in a recession.
“I would like to think that because things are kept on record, things like licence holders, people would look back and say, ‘This couple ran that pub for X amount of years or that person was the opening manager of that pub, for example in the Sir Dan’s.’ “I’d like to think that was in history somewhere.”