A “HELL-HOLE” hotel in St Mawgan has been transformed into a popular inn and community asset, thanks to the hard graft of its new owners.
John Hicks, 58, and Rod Cresswell, 52, took on a seven-year lease at the Smugglers Inn, also known as the Airways Hotel, in July 2012.
The pair have worked tirelessly to clean the place up – and are now being rewarded with glowing reviews from regular guests and a local fan base that includes an art club and whist group.
The Cornish Guardian was told about the modest duo’s achievements by Cynthia Richards, who runs the ‘Whist Drive’ at the inn.
She said: “It’s amazing what they’ve done with the place and they really deserve some recognition for it. Nothing’s too much for them and they’ve been lovely to us.”
John, who used to run a pleasure boat in the Scillies, said he and partner Rod had decided to relocate to the mainland and run a guesthouse together.
They knew they would have their hands full with the refurbishment at the Smuggler’s Inn, but its location over the road from the expanding airport site proved too good an opportunity to miss.
Still, nothing quite prepared them for the reality of the initial clean-up operation.
“It had been empty for 18 months so it was like walking into the pits of Hell,” said John. “There were holes in the roof everywhere and it was leaking like a sieve. There were more than 80 dirty glasses still left on the bar.
“We were doing 18 to 19 hour days just to get the place ship-shape. We still haven’t had a day off.”
The inn has seven rooms and restaurant seating for around 60 people, with room for an extra 50 in the bar and conservatory. It also boasts four regulars – border terriers Bart and Bracken, and cats Maisie and Hazel.
Trade has been split evenly between tourists and those on business, with bookings set to soar as new businesses move to the Aerohub Enterprise Zone to take advantage of tax breaks and the airport’s facilities.
The pair are hoping a deal can be struck to save the Newquay to Gatwick route after September this year, when Flybe are scheduled to scrap it.
“It’s been hard work but worth it,” said John. “We’re confident we can make back the money we’ve put into this and we’ll see where we are when the lease comes to an end. We’d like to say a big thanks to all the locals who’ve supported us.”