BUZZWORKS Holdings is no stranger to acquiring and refurbishing premises but, even so, the company’s latest project was something special.
The firm, which operates nine venues across Ayrshire, bought the former Stagg and Hound pub in Kilwinning several years ago, with plans to turn it into the latest of its ‘House’ premises (the company operates the Longhouse in Kilmarnock, Treehouse in Ayr and The Mill House in Stewarton). The new venue, The Corner House, was also to be something of a homecoming for owners the Blair family, whose first pub was in Kilwinning.
But when the time came to plan the refurbishment the team wanted more space – a decision that led to the acquisition of the closed bookmakers next door.
“We were going to refurbish it and open it and then we thought we’d like to make it a bit bigger,” explained Buzzworks managing director Kenny Blair.
“That’s when we went after the bookies, which was quite a complicated transaction.”
The acquisition of the second unit slowed the process, but by February of this year the company was ready to start work on transforming the site.
Working with interior design firm Surface ID, Buzzworks set about planning a venue that would chime with the other three units with the ‘house’ branding.
“We don’t want them all to look the same, but all the places are traditional-style buildings and they’re all former pubs,” said Kenny.
“So I think you’ve got to be sympathetic to the type of building you’re going into.
“We don’t feel you should put something ultra-modern in a traditional building in a small town.”
Subsequently, the design firm was briefed to craft an environment that was “traditional with a modern twist”.
While the company was keen to respect the age and location of the building, the refurbishment project was extensive.
With a team that included contractor Tom Loftus Groundworks, the conversion of the properties involved a complete gutting of both units, as well as knocking down the dividing wall between the pub and shop interiors.
“We stripped it back to the bare walls,” said Kenny.
“There was a lot of steel and it was just bare walls and no floor.
“It was a shell, basically.”
I think you’ve got to be sympathetic to the type of building you’re going into.
Clearing the interior set the stage for a complete reinvention of the space, and shopfitter Transition Interiors got to work on the creation of separate bar and restaurant areas, a private dining area and a terrace.
While the firm likes to change the design firms it works with, the contractors tend to remain consistent, said Kenny.
Over time, Buzzworks has developed strong relationships with its contractors, which Kenny said “smooths the process” of its refurbishments.
The resulting venue utilises materials such as glass, copper and reclaimed wood, as well as the building’s original exposed brickwork to create two separate, yet harmonious areas.
The 100-seat restaurant includes a combination of booths and open-plan areas with timber and tall, copper-topped tables, while the 20-seat private dining area at the rear of the building sports a large banqueting table and eye-catching blown-glass light fittings as well as its own fireplace.
Booth seating also features in the bar area, which is separated from the restaurant by a wall of glass and is accessible via its own street entrance.
Kenny said he is particularly proud of both the bar and private dining areas.
“I think the private dining room is particularly good,” he said.
“It’s one of my favourites.
We stripped the place back to the bare walls. It was a shell, basically.
“And I really like the bar. It’s got a good atmosphere – it’s not too big, it’s not too small.
“It’s just the feel of it – it’s a mixture of the lighting, the materials, the space.”
On the food side The Corner House is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving food from 9am until 10pm (the venue remains open till midnight), with set menus available for all three meals.
Consisting of dishes that Kenny described as “comfort food”, the full dinner menu includes favourites such as burgers, fish and chips, macaroni and steak pie as well as salmon en croute, crispy tempura and Thai spiced breast of chicken.
For drinks, Buzzworks deals with a number of suppliers that include Inverarity Morton (for wine), Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Maxxium UK (spirits) and Tennent’s (beer), as well as a range of smaller producers.
“We’ve got cocktails, craft ale, quite a lot of gin, a good selection of wine,” said Kenny.
“Nothing too challenging. We’ve got one real ale pump as well.”
The cocktails, in particular, have proved popular with the Kilwinning customer base, with sales surpassing expectations.
“In Kilwinning, providing a relatively small town with something they’ve not had before, people have really been receptive to cocktails,” said Kenny.
“I think it’s probably the highest percentage of cocktail sales out of all of our venues, which is a shock.”
The secret has been to provide a strong range of comparatively straightforward drinks, said Kenny.
“It (the cocktail list) is not designed to be too challenging,” he explained.
“We tend to list a lot of the recognisable favourites and add in some drinks that incorporate modern cocktail trends.”
The next project for Buzzworks will be an equally big step, when the company moves outside of its Ayrshire heartland for the first time to open a venue in Bridge of Weir.