TRANSFORMING old pubs into new wonders, Mike Berry and his wife Tonya enjoy the challenge of making a pub a local favourite.
Owners of the Olive Leaf, in Hayling Island, the pair feel their speciality is making old pubs their own.
Mike has owned other pubs in the south including one on the Isle of Wight.
He said: ‘We specialise in taking pubs which are run-down or closed and bringing them back to life.’
Before getting into the pub business, Mike trained as a chef and travelled the world trying new cuisines.
He added: ‘I used to be a chef in gastropubs and I worked throughout England.
‘I have also worked in a lot of restaurants and travelled all over the world to many different countries.
‘I think doing such a thing helped with my cooking skills as I learnt new techniques and new flavours.
‘But it also helped me pick new and different ingredients which make for a great meal.’
Running the Olive Leaf has become a family affair with Mike and Tonya’s 18-year-old son, Matt, working behind the bar.
Mike said: ‘Between his studies, Matt helps behind the bar.
‘It really helps with the family feel when customers can see us all together.
‘Tonya is a great help and she is the brains behind the business helping with finance and all the background bits.
‘We work well as a team and that is why we carry on working in the pub industry; it is something we both love doing.
‘We want the Olive Leaf to be something great.’
Winning a competition has got the ball rolling for the pub which wants this summer to be remembered.
The pub recently won a barbecue worth over £1,000 in a competition run by food manufacturer Heinz.
The barbecue, called the Big Green Egg, can grill, steam, bake and roast.
Mike thinks it will be a great addition to the pub garden.
He said: ‘We had plans for the summer to build space for a new barbecue and a stone-based pizza oven.
‘Having the Big Green Egg means we can go that one step further and have a great pub garden.
‘We are quite a food-based place anyway so it’s good that we have this addition to offer to the customers who come here.
‘If the weather gets nice again, we can have designated days to invite people to the pub to enjoy a barbecue and possible even use it in our menu.
‘Where we are so close to the sea, I think people will want to come here, have some nice food and a drink while enjoying the great scenery of the beach.’
Heinz launched the competition on scratch cards which were placed in pubs throughout the country.
When Mike scratched his first card and saw he won, he couldn’t believe it.
The 47-year-old added: ‘We had this massive launch party with the barbecue when it arrived and it was a great day.
‘When I saw the words on the card saying we’d won I was speechless.
‘It just came as a shock.
‘It has really been a talking point with visitors to the pub.’
When Mike and Tonya bought the Olive Leaf pub, it has been shut for a while and was falling apart.
Since taking over, the couple have painted the building a bright yellow instead of the white and have breathed new life into the pub.
The windows have been double-glazed and the garden neatened.
Mike said: ‘Tonya and I like to take falling-apart pubs and make them our own.
‘That is our speciality and we have done it a number of years now.
‘We like to put our own style into a place and create a lovely new pub for people.
‘It’s just something we love to do.’
The pub is also home to live music, a range of beers, wines and spirits and offers a welcoming atmosphere.
Love Your Local
The News launched our Love Your Local campaign to celebrate all that is good about local community pubs.
We believe they are an essential hub for residents and that communities suffer when they shut down.
We want you to tell us what’s great about your local. Let us know and we will feature the best ones in The News.
We will be urging people to support community pubs and we’ll be reporting on events and activities to show how you can help.
And we’re calling on councils to adopt policies that protect local pubs.
If you love your local, contact reporter Miles O’Leary on (023) 9262 2114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org