STARTING up their own own business is a big step up for anyone but it becomes all the more impressive when it involves branching out into an insustry you’d had no previous experience of.
Well that’s exactly what Lincolnshire couple Zoe Shepherdson and Gary Steemvorden have done, dramatically turning the run down Home Arms pub in Eyemouth into a guest house perfect for keen divers like themselves.
The Berwickshire coast is an area renowned for its excellent diving waters and it was the sea that first brought the couple to these parts.
Gary has been taking the three hour journey up to Berwickshire for the past 15 years and Zoe for the past seven but thanks to their new business venture their stay has become more permanent than just a long weekend.
They have ploughed a lot of their own money and time into the building, which was first built in 1886 and having a look round it myself last week this has most definitely paid off.
“We’re a really big fan of the area having both coming up here for a number of years,” Zoe told ‘Life’.
“We used to stay with our friends who had a holiday home up here and we’d help out there from time to time. It was them telling us they were retiring from running the business that made us think about starting one up ourselves.
“Originally we were just on the lookout for a holiday home but then we decided to look for somewhere to open our own hotel.”
Although he had no previous experience of the hospitality trade, Gary did have some skills that came in particularly happy when it came to renovating the Home Arms pretty much from top to bottom.
“Luckily Gary’s a joiner and he and his brother have done nearly all of the work themselves,” Zoe continued.
“And we’ve also got an electrician friend who came up with us and lived here for a while to help us out.
“When we first bought the building it was damp, cold and there were a few ceiling leaks following the bad winters of the last few years.
“The place was looking old and tired and required a lot of work.”
And a lot of work is what Zoe and Gary have put into the project.
When they arrived the hotel had 12 bedrooms and two bathrooms which they have converted to nine ensuite bathrooms and one with its own shower room.
Living in Lincolnshire and trying to co-ordinate a huge scale renovation in Scotland wan’t such an easy task and saw Zoe and Gary and those who helped them, put plenty of miles in during the four months it took them to get the Home Arms ready to re-open.
“There was a lot of travelling back and forth on weekends and a few all nighters to get all the painting done!
“Fortunately having been diving here for a while now we’ve got good connections with people in the local diving industry who let divers now about the accomodation we’d be providing.
“We actually had loads of bookings before we even opened. We’ve been up and running for five weeks now and all the weekends have been fully booked with a lot of passing trade during the week as well.
“I’ve been surprised by the number of people who’ve just walked in asking if we room. I think a lot of it has to do with word of mouth.”
As well as beiong thrilled themselves with what they’ve achieved with The Home Arms so far, it seems others are just as impressed.
“The guestbook we’ve put out is full of comments from people saying how much they enjoyed their stay and we’ve already had some repeat bookings for next year,” Zoe enthused.
“We’ve also had some really nice emails from guests.
“With The Home Arms being at the start of the high street we really wanted it to make a good first impression and the comments we’ve had from other businesses in the street would suggest it’s given it a real boost.
“The police have also said how happy they are that it’s no longer a pub as I’ve heard it had a reputation for trouble!”
Zoe admitted that the decision to move from Lincolnshire, where she and Gary still have a house, hadn’t been an easy one to make as both are home birds.
“It was a big wrench moving three hours away from our families as we’re both really close to them but we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss.
“My mum’s already been up and all of sudden there’s loads of relatives coming out of the woodwork who want a holiday up here!
Where we’re from in Lincolnshire is close to the River Humber but that’s just a muddy brown puddle compared to the view we get when we look out of the window here. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of waking up to it.
“The Berwickshire coast has got to be one of the best places to dive in the UK and we’re already looking for new wrecks to discover for ourselves and to point our guests to.”
Although Zoe said she expected trade to drop off once the summer season she already has plans well afoot for another business which will run as an off-shoot to The Home Arms.
“I’m a hairdresser by trade and we’re going to open next door as the Hair Bar, offering another service to our customers and locals.
“At the moment me and Gary are the only staff and we haven’t had a day off so far but once I open the salon I’ll be looking for a few employees.
“There’s also a cottage at the back of the hotel which is still part of The Home Arms but has a different address.
“The plan is to turn this into a holiday let.”
To get further information about The Home Arms guest house you can log on to www.thehomearms.com or telephone (018907) 51316.