It all started when Rob walked into the office and suggested to James and Pat that ‘it was time to buy a pub’. A week later Draco Pub Co. was born (now rebranded to Stay Original Co), and the three friends became landlords after buying The Swan from Punch.
The villagers of Wedmore in Somerset then saw the semi-derelict coaching inn go from an ugly duckling into the kind of establishment that wouldn’t be out of place in Notting Hill.
Proof that renovation plus inspiration [and a massive budget] equals transformation.
But the Swan wasn’t just a busy village pub again. We added an award-winning restaurant and beautifully designed bedrooms, ensuring tourists, weekenders, the business community and locals were drawn to its unique character.
One of Rob’s other business interests is River Cottage, well known for its TV series on Channel 4, cookery school, restaurants and campaigning. This is where he found Tom Blake, a former head chef who joined to oversee the menu at Stay Original and has been instrumental in winning awards from the likes of the Good Food Guide and The Morning Advertiser.
Walk into to any of our Inns and you will see we champion local produce, recipes, ales and ciders.
The success of The Swan spurred us on in the direction of The White Hart in Somerton, a neglected little jewel in need of a serious facelift [and an equally serious budget]. It opened with new bedrooms and a kitchen turning out our take on great Somerset food. Not surprisingly the bar was as packed as the Pyramid Stage during a headline act and more awards followed.
As important as our pubs are, it’s the people we put in them that really make the difference. At the heart of Stay Original Co is a young, energetic team who know that there’s more to keeping the customers happy than just pulling pints and waiting tables. An informal, engaging professionalism pervades under the watch of Natalie Zvonek-Little whose mantra is “atmosphere is everything and it starts with happy staff.”
Our third project, Timbrell’s Yard in Bradford on Avon, opened in March 2015. This former riverside club and pub has 17 rooms, a sumptuous bar, plus a 100-cover restaurant and a club room for private parties. In October 2015, within 7 months of opening, Timbrell’s Yard made it to the Sunday Times Ultimate 100 British Hotels.
In November 2015 we acquired our fourth and biggest hotel to date, The King’s Arms in Dorchester; an appropriately regal building right in the centre of the high street which will receive the same care and attention to detail of all our other inns. It is currently closed for refurbishment but will open later in the year (2017).
And in November 2016 we acquired our fifth hotel, The Grosvenor Arms in Shaftesbury. Unlike our other pubs and hotels, this did not require a complete refurbishment, and with 16 bedrooms, a buzzing bar and a large restaurant it has seamlessly slotted into the group.