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Online butchers Turner & George spent years waiting for the right location for expansion, but finally found the right place at Greensmiths at Lower Marsh, an independent supermarket selling meat, artisan bread and dairy produce, as well as a café.
“Refurbs are like the proverbial piece of string so it very much depends what you’re coming into,” says co-founder James George. “But I’d say make sure to carry out a good site survey and be realistic about what you really need to change for starters. The most expensive works are moving electrics, major plumbing and moving walls, so try to make the space your own with the minimum of these kinds of works.
“It’s also worth thinking whether you can re-use equipment or source secondhand. This can save a fortune, but obviously if buying used items, it’s best to get it from a reputable source that will test and guarantee. Before you start work make sure to visit site with a good contractor, someone you’ve used before or a recommendation is best, and make sure to get a fixed price or solid estimate.”
It’s also worth checking that you don’t need any local authority permissions and additional elements such as parking restrictions or difficulty removing waste, he advises.
For Gemma Carradice, general manager at Lancaster Brewery Holdings, cash really is key when it comes to any decision to expand or refurbish. “I think it’s tricky to give too much advice as every project in the artisan sector is quite unique. However, always focus on the cash. Cash is critical. Produce forecasts that don’t just present an optimistic viewpoint.
“Examine the worst-case scenarios, what would that do to you, as the owner? What could it do to your company?” While the company has taken on several major projects in a relatively short time, against the backdrop of a difficult economic climate, the running costs of their new ventures are relatively low.
“If you do decide you want to do something, and it is a good idea, then make it happen. But obviously don’t put things at risk. We’ve been quite careful and considered in what we’ve taken on. The distillery and new bar at Lancaster railway station came at great cost, but their running costs are relatively low. We’re not burdened with an inflexible and large workforce for either business.
“So my main advice is, always look for growth, but be wary of new ventures with high fixed costs. At least until this current storm passes.”