Sunday, 19 September 2021

Simplicity is secret, say couple after two decades at one pub

A COUPLE are celebrating 20 years of running a Henley pub — and say the secret of their success is

A COUPLE are celebrating 20 years of running a Henley pub — and say the secret of their success is simplicity.

Graham and Celia Steward took over the Bird in Hand in Greys Road in 1993 and have seen it listed in the Good Beer Guideevery year since 1996.

The free house has been voted pub of the year three times by the South Oxfordshire Campaign for Real Ale and it won the inaugural pub back gardens competition at this year’s Henley in Bloom awards.

Mr Steward, 67, said: “Buying the pub has turned out to be the best thing I have ever done. It has been very good for us.

“You have to decide what sort of pub you want to be and stick to that. We don’t really do much food because lots of pubs do good food around here. What we do is good beer.

“There are no pool tables and fruit machines — all you can really do is drink and talk and that is why it works.” His wife, 63, said: “We are a locals’ local. There is a wide cross- section of people who come in and everybody is really friendly.

“Even if you walk in when you are new, somebody will go and talk to you and people do seem to come back.

“We have had our dips and our ups but mainly trade has been very steady and we have got a nice extended family in Henley. I think that we have been very lucky.”

The couple, who have raised more than £40,000 for charity since they took over, marked their achievement with a party attended by more than 100 people, including Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak and Mayoress Catherine Allan-Notaras as well as Casper the pub dog.

Some of the guests have been visiting the pub since the Stewards’ arrival.

The couple decided to buy the business after Mr Steward was made redundant from his job as a typesetter in Marlow.

At first, his wife was concerned at the huge change in their lives. She said: “I was a bit panicky a few days before the opening night and threw a bit of a wobbly because I wasn’t sure if we were doing the right thing or if anybody would come in.”

One attraction was the couple’s daughters, Natalie, now 38, and Carly, 36.

Mrs Steward said: “When we first opened our daughters were 16 and 18 and once it got round that there were these young girls we had a young group popping in as well as people similar to us in age.

“Over the years we have seen them all grow up, get married and have babies.”

The couple, who also have a son, Gary, 40, and two grandchildren, have no plans to retire or hand the business down.

Mr Steward said: “We have a nice bunch of regulars and they support us well. I think we have decided that we will be here until we die.”

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