Between a Rock and a Hard Place


It was August 2017, we’d been saving really hard for 2 years & were visiting Cardiff for our summer holiday. Sat in a tiny craft beer tap room we got chatting to a lovely chap at the bar who had recently retired as an MD from a fairly major company. He and his partner had some great chat, but after discussing our hopes and dreams for our own business in the future he presented a compelling argument to go for it, using the phrase ‘jump and the net will appear’.

We started looking for a business premises the next day.

We soon realised it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park and that we had possibly been a little naive in realising quite how much money, time and heartache it was going to be. Having gone for 3 properties in some of our favoured areas, we were finally in discussions with a lovely location in Sale- we’d written our business plan for that location and drew up our initial plans. Sean handed in his notice and was set to leave the teaching profession in July. Two weeks later someone submitted an easier option to the landlord and we were forced out. Shit.

Although we were looking closely at Stockport, Davenport & Great Moor, Hazel Grove hadn’t been on our radar until a good friend sent over the listing for London Road. It was a shell of a building with commercial units below on the site of a former pub- things were looking promising here. We viewed what was essentially a building site the next day and chatted to the developer about our plans. Soundproofing here, lighting there, promising a high quality finish & a corner plot with loads of natural light from the large windows wrapping around the unit. Perfect. It was ours.

Cue this roller-coaster. Long story short is that we have had around 6 different dates so far that the building would be completed by ready for us to kick off with creating our space. These started from December 2018 and we have encountered a whole host of reasons, all of which are completely out of our hands and mostly to do with the development of the building. In April this year we had a crushing blow that almost meant we’d lost the whole thing – I won’t go into too much here now as it was rectified but it is proof that sometimes meeting in person rather than hiding behind emails is the one.

Following a meeting with the Director of the agents we ironed out some of the queries, signed some more paperwork to secure the agreement & were confident it was going to be May/June. Despite that being absolutely horrendous timed due to my day job and unexpected challenges that it threw at me (and continues to!) we started fitting it out and decided to launch our crowdfunder. We were keen to get the excitement building and so set on getting more folk on board and involved! We were so delighted with the support we received and were on a bit of a high!

May came and went and June became July. We were not getting a whole lot of information and when we were having to advise & have awkward conversations with the very lovely builder about whether the toilet met building regs or not we began to worry. The floor was a mini mountain range, other trades we were getting in were surprised at some of the finishes. Whilst the directors of the agents were on a two week holiday we were getting together quotes to rectify some of the issues. Our joiner has fixed the plasterboard windowsill on the little side door window, the electrician has adjusted the wiring and we’ve filled in holes left in walls and ceilings and repainted over them. Our pals have been over to help paint, it was starting to look good, but we weren’t seeing any progress on the build itself. We’d heard the company the developer used for building sign off had gone bust and they were waiting for someone else to step in for sign off. We appreciate these things happen, but for how long?

As August arrived and we had little idea where we were despite several follow ups, I became more and more anxious & upset. They’d finally agreed to level the floor but they essentially just patched areas with a weak concrete mix. It was the final straw and it broke me. We were between a rock and a hard place with the developers & agents whose heart is no longer in it either. I couldn’t face it anymore and began to resent the shop. Why had we saved so hard for 4 years, worked multiple jobs and put in so much time to have this much heartache, uncertainty and pressure on ourselves and our own relationship. I didn’t visit or do any work on it for 4 weeks, I couldn’t face it. I wanted to turn back time, backing out at this stage wasn’t an option- we’d gained so much support & invested too much time and money in it. I had become ill, feeling so stuck, overwhelmed and teamed with a challenging period in my day job I was hurtling towards a breakdown.

Meanwhile Sean has been working on the whole project whilst I have been in a horrid place. He’s been keeping momentum going where he can, building furniture and working closely with the various trades we’ve had in. He has had to do a lot of this solo, or with the help of some excellent pals (thank you). This has become at times, too much for him to bear. It can take one email to send one of us into a spiral, it’s a fucking rollercoaster.

A lot of soul searching, remembering the reasons why we are doing it and crucially, offering support to each other during is how we get through. The support from our friends and family has been incredible. I’ve cut my hours down at work as much as I can for the last couple of weeks and had those days were I have just had to look after myself, it’s a process. Its still a huge struggle but I’ve been a lot more open to friends and family to try and relieve the burden from Sean (although he is amazing support) and I do feel better this week.

So where are we now? The answer is that we are still not really sure. It’s IndyMan weekend and we have been so excited for beer Christmas. We’re there Friday and Saturday day so if you invested in the crowdfunder and it came with a pin badge we’ll bring some to IMBC and we’d be delighted to hand them over! We don’t have an opening date (we might get tshirts made!) but have been working with the agents closely this last week and are pushing what we can. Do come and say hello and share a beer with us if you see us ballooning around.

We’re a level, finished floor & a building sign off away from a bar at this point. We’ve had some incredible trades in to help build the project & we will do a more positive post soon about all the work that has gone into the bar build itself. Thank you so much to our great friends & community in Manchester. To our amazing bosses/ colleagues/ friends at Reasons to be Cheerful & Station Hop for being there, relating and having a listening ear. Thank you all so much for your support and patience, we’ll be with you real soon x

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