Stoke Ash pub celebrates millionth customer
On one of their first dates, hotel workers Shane Aldridge and Anne Cronin shared a meal at the pub where, as a 15-year-old, Shane had worked as a pot washer.
She looked around the 17th century Stoke Ash White Horse and dreamed of a future keeping a pub together.
When the inn eventually came up for sale, they scraped together all they could to buy it – and 18 years later calculate they have served a million customers.
They have celebrated with a free draw and all customers have had a chance to win a weekend in one of the inn’s newly-refurbished rooms.
Mr Aldridge and Miss Cronin were both in their 20s and had the first of their four children when they bought the White Horse.
Since then, many pubs have struggled and closed but theirs has gone from a modest turnover of £270,000 to sales exceeding £1.5 million a year and serving 1,500 meals in an average week.
“It is not an easy life. It is early mornings and late nights,” said Miss Cronin. “It’s a way of life, not a job.”
“We have listened and modelled our business around guest expectations. I think this has been the secret of our success.”
They have focused on value for money and home-prepared, good local produce and have kept up a programme of investment, most recently spending £50,000 to restore windows and replace plain glass with hand-made leaded lights.
Mr Cronin, whose father was a chef at the inn under previous owners, said: “We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on repairs in our time.
“It’s not money wasted as I see guests appreciating the beauty of the place and we know that we have left a mark that will continue to show for generations to come.”
Miss Cronin added: “We have met some great people during our time and have been lucky to employ some great stars that have made it all possible.”
The winner of the draw was Mr D Hill, of Stowmarket.