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Posted: 18 March 2014
Blog category: Pub of the Week
A couple who met working at the London Olympics are now championing a very different venture – the Chimney Boy in Faversham. Nicola McCullagh and Michael Payne have just become licensees of the historic Shepherd Neame pub, situated in Preston Street near the town’s railway station.
It is a major change of direction for the pair, who have been together for two years since meeting at the Olympic Park, where Nicola worked as an accreditation centre manager and Michael as a security project manager.
Nicola said: “Running our own pub was something we had talked about, as I was a pub supervisor while at university, and Michael was brought up in the industry, as his Mum and Dad ran pubs around Kent and London.
“Seeking a fresh challenge after the Olympic Park was finished, we wanted more job security, and to be our own bosses, so thought it was the perfect time to go for it.”
The couple attended one of the brewery’s open days for prospective tenants before Christmas, and the Chimney Boy was one of the pubs shown to them.
Nicola said: “Michael is from Essex, and although I’m from Maidstone I didn’t really know Faversham, but as soon as we visited, we fell in love with the town. And when we saw the Chimney Boy, we knew it was the one for us. It is in a brilliant location in the heart of Faversham, and it had so much potential.”
The pub is now looking better than ever, after a £170,000 makeover funded by the brewery. Its interior has been repainted throughout in contemporary colours, with care taken to preserve the large pub’s many original features, including oak beams and three inglenook fireplaces. The largest prompted the pub’s name, as it has steps inside which the chimney sweep’s boy used to climb.
The pub’s exterior has been repainted, with new signage, and the courtyard seating area and car park spruced up.
Its first floor function room, which can hold up to 100 people and has its own bar, has also enjoyed a stylish makeover, perfect for celebrations, weddings or corporate events.
Nicola and Michael are being given a helping hand in their new venture by two of his three children, with Oliver, 23, in the kitchen, and daughter Alice, 19, behind the bar. Oliver is currently creating the pub’s delicious new Taste of Things to Come menu, consisting of serving platters and open sandwiches, before a more comprehensive food offer is introduced in April.
Nicola said: “We wanted to get really settled before we introduced the full menu, but we hope that the Chimney Boy will eventually become renowned for its reasonably priced, delicious food.”
She added: “We are very excited about our new venture, and have been really pleased by the reaction we have received from the locals so far.
“The Chimney Boy has traditionally been the home of the Faversham Folk Club, so we have been delighted to welcome them back for their weekly get-together in the function room, and hope that we can become the go-to venue for other local groups.
“We really want to play a significant role in town life, and become members of the community.”