Back in October 2015, we finally got the keys to 24 Queen Street here in Burslem, Stoke-On-Trent. An almost forgotten little shop/office on what used to be one of the towns busiest thoroughfares, home to the now derelict Indoor Market, once the bustling hive of the town.
Although Queen Street is much quieter these days, it still holds a host of hidden treasures, the stunning architecture of The Wedgwood Institute and School Of Art, an old hotel in need of renovation, a butchers, greetings card shop, Samaritans, two chemists, a wedding dress store, insurance broker, hairdresser, pubs, an Indian restaurant, takeaways, even a radio station.
But sadly there are lots of empty shops too, as with other town centres, a by-product of stores migrating to out-of-town retail parks or a move to internet retailing, plus of course the decline in manufacturing jobs especially here in the very heart of the Potteries.
So what made us choose here?
Well, for one we felt a genuine desire from local people to try to revive that heart, still beating, albeit with a feeble pulse. As with the old indoor market pictured below, old shop fronts still mothballed, public meetings organised to try to raise funds to bring it back to life and in use by the community in some form. Other buildings being renovated, cafés opening, even a hog roast shop, that in itself a good reason to locate here…
On top of all that though, we saw this place and felt with a bit of vision, a scattering of creative thinking to best use the odd space, a touch of madness, several car loads of paint and LOTS of hard work, we could breathe life into this sad neglected building and turn it into something to be proud of.
So over a period of about two months, with a little help from lots of people here and there, we grafted to bring the image in my head to life.
There is not a lot more to add here apart from a little photo narrative, but here in pictures is what we started with and where we ended up, in Otter’s Tears Beer Co.
First job, strip out upstairs, clean and paint EVERYTHING white, to give us a blank canvas.
Add a splash of colour and rip out that manky old carpet..
Decoration complete, upstairs… Now to tackle that cellar!
This may seem a tad over the top, but believe me these walls were in a proper state, damp, crumbling mortar, the entire room needing scrubbing with a wire brush before being coated with sticky PVA to get a firm base to bond to.. One particular Saturday we had a bit of help wielding paintbrushes and rollers from Chris @ckdsaddlers, Michelle from OffBeat and Dave Shipman from Otherton Ales (he’s hiding somewhere)
Enter James, my old mate from the Bespoke Trellis Company, who put his skills to work in a new direction for this job, cladding, building and shelf design and construction. James took my ideas, threw in a few of his own and basically after scribbling them down, made them appear, from trees, metal tubes and fixings, like magic! I waxed wood…
But gradually, things started to take shape. Randomly turning up in the same shirts…
I thought painting outside was going to be a piece of cake, but that arch is higher than it looks, that ladder is flimsier than it looks, that pavement slopes in all directions and we were having gales at the time. The only option was to bungy the ladder to the T-bar supports and on a particularly cold day, for Rach to spend hours gripping the bottom of the ladder, the shivers travelling up the ladder strings.. The logos as designed by Lemon Top Creative start to be applied by local sign-writer Mark from Poster Express. I was away fetching goodies in Yorkshire when these went up, it was a lovely moment when I first saw them in action, made it all seem very real.
The earlier mentioned goody fetching beer trip…
Lots of shelf space to fill… More beer arriving day after day.
Shane, on a late night delivery…
Fridges man-handed in, unwrapped, then returned after being mugged-off…
New fridges arrived, man-handled again, the genuine article this time from a new supplier.
More wood waxing. Shelf filling.. Oh, there’s Mr Shipman, where else would you find him..
Cellar finished off.. Finished article..
Three weeks in, we are doing well, lots of old friends have visited Otter’s Tears, lots of new friends too. Importantly though, people are walking past, doing a double take, then coming in to see what we are about. Exactly what we hoped for and in doing so, we hope it will inspire other people to come to Burslem to shop, even start a business of their own (and enjoy a good beer or two from us of course).
There is of course a lot more to come. Currently that tasting room isn’t open that much, mainly Saturdays and Vale home games, but that will change soon. We’ve lots of events in the pipeline, and LOTS of new and interesting beers due to hit those “hand-crafted” shelves.
Things are most definitely getting Otter…
Follow us on Twitter: @otterstears
Like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OttersTears/
Share this post too, we need your support, Thanks! 🙂
Address: Otter’s Tears Beer Co, 24 Queen Street, Burslem, STOKE ON TRENT ST6 3EG