Sudbury: Farmers branch out into pub management with re-opening of Stansfield Compasses
- Credit: Archant
A Sudbury farmer has branched out into pub ownership.
Phil Dennis, of H E Dennis of Stansfield, near Bury St Edmunds, and his family have taken over at the neighbouring Stansfield Compasses, which they are now running as a freehouse.
Phil believes running a farm business - complicated at the best of times - has helped prepare him for the challenges ahead.
The diversification, which opened on the May 25 Bank Holiday weekend following extensive refurbishment, is already proving a hit with customers.
A new beer garden has been created by using some spare land owned by the farm business with stunning views of the local landscape.
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The directors of the new venture are Phil, his wife, Anne, his sister, Louise Mackrill, who is a caterer by profession and runs the kitchen, and her husband, Hugh Cairns, who is in charge of the bar and front of house.
“It’s a real family concern,” said Phil.
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The refurbishment has been carried out by local tradesmen, from builders to electricians.
“It needed some money spent on it, and quite a lot of maintenance,” said Phil. Toilets were upgraded and the dining and bar areas improved.
The previous tenants of the pub left in September last year, and owners Gastro Pubs Ltd sold the pub to the Dennises, whose farm is next door. Gastro Pubs bought the freehouse back in 2007 from previous owner, Scott Chapman.
The new business fits well with some other diversifications from the main arable operation at the farm. New and developing businesses include a turkey-rearing enterprise, a rare pig operation, and a “woodland weekends” business where fishermen and wildlife lovers can get away from it all camping in a log “pod” .
Produce from the farm is being used in the pub dishes, along with local food and drink, including Aspalls cider and Fairfields crisps.
The traditional freehouse was built on the old wool route between Clare and Bury St Edmunds in the 17th Century, and enjoys fine views over the beautiful West Suffolk countryside.
Despite its rural location, the business has drawn trade from the market towns of Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds and the racing town of Newmarket.
Even though the operation was shut for eight months, trade has picked up immediately, said Phil, but he believed the pub was enjoying a honeymoon period.
“It’s brilliant at the moment,” he said. “Lunches and dinners are full. It’s going well. We are just finding our feet. We are all new to it.”