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Giving Pub Customers What They Want Works For New Swan Boss

You can either spend thousands on market research, or you can do as new Holbrook Swan owner Alec Williamson (pictured at Holbrook Swan) did and spend six weeks interacting with your customer base. 

When Calvors paid almost £200,000 to buy the Swan in the main street it was in dire need of something more than just a facelift and lick of paint.

Alec got his hands dirty and helped out with the renovations, while at the same time was able to gauge local feeling and understand the dynamic of the village.

“It has been really good being here over the past six weeks working on the Swan,” said Alec.

“It has been interesting meeting all the different people going to the shops, or the schools, and villagers from Holbrook and other villages coming through

“The number of people stopping and chatting, or just looking through the window has shown what a great response we have had and I get the impression they are pleased someone is spending money on it and giving it another life.”

 Previously owned by Punch, and with a series of tenants and managers, the Swan struggled, although the last landlady Danielle Harris, showed it had potential.

After doing their homework, Calvors Brewery, based at Coddenham Green, Suffolk, made their move, and cutting out the middle-man can ease the financial burden.

Alec said: “I believe the pub was coming to the end of its life as such, once the Asset of Community Value didn’t result in the village buying it and Punch advertising it for years without success, its chances were slim.

“With me and the brewery coming in and buying it, and running it, then there will be less people involved and so hopefully it can work.”

You won’t hear live music blasting out, or see big screens showing sport, the Swan is aiming for those who want to come in, sit down and enjoy a drink, beer, wine or coffee, in comfortable peace, while enjoying an amenable atmosphere, reading a paper, or book, or simply engaging in good conversation.

“We are a different sort of pub in a way,” explained Alec, “We are not a restaurant, we are not offering live music and sports, we are a traditional pub. We will be offering coffee, different gins which are popular nowadays as well.

“Whether you are coming in to have a cup of coffee, or a gin and read the paper, or coming in for five pints of beer, it is an old-fashioned pub, with a slightly modern touch, welcoming everyone.”

Customers were aplenty on opening day, despite it being Friday the 13th, and there was even a card of appreciation, which thankedAlec and his staff 'for giving us our pub back'. 

The Swan will be the second in Calvors’ masterplan to steadily build a chain of outlets for their award-winning lagers, dark beers and real ales.

Their first, the Rampant Horsein Needham Market, has shown Alec's blueprint can work, and the Swan will be another step towards finding a third pub with potential.

 “We shall see how this works out, while making sure the other remains a success,” said Alec. “I believe a pub’s success is down to its location and the people it serves.

“Holbrook is a great village. It is relatively affluent area, with people living here or commuting through on their way to Manningtree or Ipswich or going to jobs locally.

“It is a great place to live and I enjoy the drive to work along by the river, it’s beautiful.

 “We aim to make it work, do better than just break even albeit the Swan is a small pub, then if we can do that then we may look at another new outlet for the brewery.”

Created in 2008, Calvors brew English lagers in Coddenham Green by hand, using the just the essential ingredients of water, malt, hops and yeast, and no chemicals.

A separate sister brewery makes craft beers and real ales, in small manageable qualities.

Alecsaid: “Calvors makes very drinkable beers, very light, we are not looking to make beers of six or seven per cent stouts, it is more about being able to have a pint and then another.”

Judging by the customers at the new look Swan, that is exactly what they are doing and, although it is early days, and by engaging with the villagers Calvors is using a formula which the pub-goer wants.

More pictures…

Tasty Bacon Jam Franchise Goes National

Simon Wakefield has come a long way since starting out making a few jars of his flavoursome Syms Bacon jam here on the peninsula in an artisan kitchen in the Cookhouse, next to Suffolk Food Hall.

Back in 2013 the options was limited to Original, Habanero and Smoked, now the range includes ketchup, brown sauce and mustard (all to die for) and the products are sold world wide.

Syms Bacon Jam has proved so popular Simon has decided to share his success by offering franchise opportunities nationwide, starting with Suffolk and Essex.

Tasting events have proved popular with the Syms’ range flying off the shelf and now there is a unique chance to own this exclusive territory.

 Current customers include Harvey Nichols, farm shops, garden shops, delis and butchers and Syms Bacon Jam insist experience has shown just one taste of this range is enough to guarantee repeat business for potential franchisees.

The company explained in their prospectus this is achieved either through a percentage of Amazon and eBay sales along with website, event or corporate sales. This means so the orders roll in from various revenue streams offering both a passive and active income, while benefitting from fantastic ongoing support.

All of the savoury Syms Bacon Jam range is produced in a SALSA accredited factory using only the finest Suffolk bacon and is recognised for the product’s high quality control.

“Our range of Bacon Jam products and condiments are ideal for anyone who likes food, making it a fun and friendly business to run,” said founder and owner of Syms Bacon Jam Sym Wakefield. “Our Bacon Jams are both specialist products and mass market food products which everyone can enjoy.

“This makes them a regular food purchase and a pantry essential, ensuing repeat sales, either online or at events.”

The savoury jams, which include Original, Smoked and Habanero, and the associated condiments such as the Great Taste award-winning Bacon Mustard, Bacon Mayo, and Bacon Ketchup, are used with a wide variety of foods, including sausages salads, chips black pudding, cheese and crackers or as a stock or basis for gravy.  

Syms Bacon Jams proven and sustainable business model offers an initial package to run this fun and friendly business, which includes £1,800 worth of retail stock, a sign-written van, a corporate event marquee and a potential retailer list for your area.

In addition to the high level of independence owning a franchise brings, territory owners will benefit from Syms Bacon Jams’ wide-spread and burgeoning brand recognition, award-winning quality produce, pre-opening training and support and the safety net of a built-in customer base.

Franchisees also benefit from Mr Wakefield’s experience and on-going support in site selection, knowledge of events, design, training, advertising, management and stock control.

Before combining his love of bacon, cooking and food in general Mr Wakefield was a partner in an estate agents but his passion in Syms Bacon jam has driven him to succeed ad expand the business.

“The business has evolved so much over the four years and it has been an incredible journey,” said Mr Wakefield. “Now is the time to take the business forward with people that want to learn and earn and make Syms Bacon Jam a household name nationally, not just in East Anglia.”

To learn more about becoming a Syms Bacon Jams franchisee or to receive a prospectus contact Simon on or call 07933710185. Check website:

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