Kevin Bell reveals a fascinating insight into Abersoch Holiday Homes and how Jane & Craig Grant developed & molded it into the hugely successful holiday letting business that it is today.
When Jane Grant walked into The Vaynol all those years ago for what she still claims was, ”Just a lime & soda”, who would have known that it was the start of not only a family that is now part of the fabric of the local landscape, but the development of the highly regarded holiday letting enterprise that is now Abersoch Holiday Homes.
Craig, originally from the West Midlands but already a long-time resident in the village, was the pub manager in those days and Jane was a girl from Stockton Heath who had been coming to Abersoch since she was a toddler. Working in The Harbour Hotel (back in the days when ironing tablecloths was still a thing!) since she was thirteen, she would go on to have a number of summer jobs in the village before pursuing a career in both the nuclear industry at Wylfa Power Station in Anglesey and in Investment Banking with Barclays Bank, returning every weekend and every summer to what was becoming her spiritual home – Abersoch.
“Sailing was my big thing as a girl,” says Jane. “But I just loved everything about life down here – the beaches, the lifestyle, the sunshine and the never-ending list of family and friends who we would meet up with week after week, year on year. It was our family paradise and I never wanted to leave.” That sailing experience here in Abersoch’s bluest of blue waters was to stand her in good stead years later when she was selected to crew the Portsmouth to Buenos Aires leg of Barclays entry into the Round the World Yacht Race. “Three of the best weeks of my life,” says Jane. “Twelve of us on a 72 foot yacht sailing halfway across the world. I would do it again tomorrow.”
Which may well be true but it’s not easy to see the pair leaving Abersoch in a hurry. Talking to Craig and Jane in their smart new lettings office on the high street next door to Courts, their love for the area shines through everything they say. The premises have been an ice-cream parlour, showroom for The Warren and even, back in the days before online gambling, the betting shop where locals and visitors alike could sneak off to place a cheeky flutter! Standing in the cool pastels of Abersoch Holiday Homes it feels like a place that has finally found it’s proper use – the window alive with lovely local houses just ready for your next holiday and the office for the friendly, efficient team who make the business what it is.
From that first meeting in The Vaynol a whirlwind romance blossomed and alongside it the development of Abersoch Holiday Homes and Craig’s Abersoch Property Management business. Jane takes up the story. “The holiday home business was initially the baby of Rose Hadden from The Wirral who, from 2002, was letting what would become the company’s first property – Number 3 Ynys Fawr. She was so successful that friends asked her to let their holiday homes, using the fledgling website she had created and the contacts she had developed. And so Abersoch Holiday Homes was born!”
The business grew and grew until, with forty five homes now in the portfolio, Craig and Jane acquired the company. Craig had been providing property management and maintenance services to the business from day one so knew the properties well, was well-versed in the expectations of owners and holiday-makers and experienced in providing the full range of services needed, often at very short notice, to keep everything running smoothly. Jane meanwhile had been developing her understanding of the commercial and service side of the business through her wide-ranging career, so the pair were a natural fit for a business with great potential in everybody’s favourite holiday destination.
“The acquisition wasn’t difficult at all,” says Jane with an ironic smile. “We bought the business on the 1st December 2010 and first child Lucy was born a couple of weeks later!” Which is typical of a couple who see only challenges to be met along the way rather than insurmountable obstacles. Craig’s side of the business was already growing year on year – with forty nine cleaners and a wide ranging team of trades-people of every discipline the company is enormously proud of the local employment the business generates and the mutual loyalty they have earned with the people who work with them. “We couldn’t do it without them,“ says Craig. “The nature of our business requires efficient, friendly, experienced and versatile folk who can deliver a professional solution at short notice with a smile. We are lucky to have so many people working with us who can do just that. That’s the secret to keeping both owners and holiday-makers happy.”
Jane meanwhile was growing the lettings business, the professional services the pair provide rapidly building the company portfolio to over a hundred holiday homes of all types and sizes. “But always with the emphasis on quality,” says Jane. “Abersoch is a place that attracts a wide range of visitors but our target demographic all have one thing in common. They may have very different taste in terms of the style of holiday cottage they are seeking – from rustic to contemporary, rural to beach-side – but they are all looking for the very highest standard of accommodation and a truly professional approach to service. That’s what we pride ourselves in offering.”
The same approach to quality shines through the way the company present their homes to potential clients, advising home-owners on furnishings, fittings and decoration and then ensuring the finished product is beautifully photographed. Which is where the work of John Wormald from Totally Abersoch comes in. Jane captured the relationship perfectly, “I honestly couldn’t operate without this man – he has been by our side for a decade. Aside from the first class photography – advisor, critique, counsel and driver! Integral to the business.”
With the concept of the ‘staycation’ developing year on year, Jane and Craig found a growing market as more home owners put their houses onto the market – providing a great boon to the local economy as once vacant houses filled with high-spending visitors. Similarly holiday-makers were increasingly coming to understand the beauty of a holiday here on the Welsh Riviera – superb beaches, fantastic facilities and a wide range of attractions from water-sports to fine dining, all just two or three hours drive for most visitors. Holiday-makers, not least those with children, were finding it an increasingly attractive alternative to the hassle of airports and transfers. Not only were visits increasing but the all-year market was developing too. With more visitors coming to the village – first in the ‘shoulder’ seasons either side of peak periods, then increasingly throughout the year – the number of bars, restaurants, coffee houses and shops was growing too. Not only which, they were increasingly open throughout the year. All of which made the village more attractive still as a year-round destination.
“We like to think businesses like Abersoch Holiday Homes contribute to the local economy in lots of ways – not least in supplying a steady stream of customers to local businesses,” says Jane. “And those same businesses are what is making our offer more and more successful – providing the first class facilities visitors are looking for to keep them coming back all through the year, every year. It’s a really healthy relationship.”
As the Abersoch Holiday Homes years rolled on, Craig and Jane continued to not only develop and grow the business but to grow a family here in their adopted home. First Lucy (the daughter who arrived with the business! ) now aged seven and son Zac (five) who enjoy a wonderful upbringing here by the sea. “When you become parents here, like everywhere, your life and lifestyle changes. For us the perfect evening is wandering down from our house by the sea in Llanbedrog to meet up with friends on the beach. Paddle-boarding in the bay and barbecuing on the sands as the sun sets whilst the children play freely by the seashore is pretty much perfection,” Craig and Jane tell me. Winters offer a little down-time from the pressures of work – breaks to Katschberg in Austria meaning the kids are increasingly at home on the snow as they are on the sand! With Zac already a keen footballer with the legendary Pwllheli Under Six’s, Lucy a talented gymnast with shows across Wales, Craig very much part of the community as a Retained Firefighter in Abersoch and the company enjoying a big role in the Abersoch Triple Crown beach races, it’s clear that life is never dull or quiet for the Grants.
Meantime the business now proudly sported a portfolio of closer to two hundred homes and inevitably bigger business came calling. “We were in no hurry to sell though,” says Jane. “Abersoch Holiday Homes is our baby and we were only ever going to work with a company that was the right fit.” The Original Cottage Company proved to be just that. A family business itself, it’s now made up of a group of similar family owned operations, each with a niche offering expertly-managed quality homes in holiday hotspots across the UK. “’Pride and Passion in everything we do’ is the ethos of The Original Cottage Company,” says Jane. “Which is exactly how we feel about what we do. And the fact that we could dovetail our highly recognisable branding with the ‘family branding’ of The Original Cottage Company meant a lot to us and our clients.”
Initially contracted to provide continuity for twelve months after the sale, Jane has stayed on and is now Portfolio Development Manager for the operation across all it’s businesses in Wales, whilst Craig’s Abersoch Property Management company continues to provide management and maintenance services for The Original Cottage Company throughout the Llyn. With a back office team of eight in Newtown providing support across Wales and the marketing and technical expertise of The Original Cottage Company from their Group Services division in Norfolk behind them, Abersoch Holidays is now able to focus more than ever on the ‘front-end’ – providing an enviable, state of the art service to both home owners and holiday makers. I was a little early for my meeting and witnessed this first hand as Property Adviser Janet Taylor, a woman with huge experience in Abersoch property management, dealt swiftly with a series of enquiries from both customers and clients thanks to the state of the art back-office and booking system the business now has access to through The Original Cottage Company.
So the business may be in new hands but they are hands that carefully cradle and develop the enterprise that Craig and Jane have worked so hard to develop and continue to oversee. It’s plain to see that the couple are very happy with their decision, the way it has helped them continue to grow the business, yet further improve their service and allow them to enjoy the benefit of being parents of a young family in this wonderful location. What better place to work and play!
For an independent collection of superb Abersoch holiday letting properties take a look though our Self Catering section.
Abersoch Holiday Homes written by Kevin Bell for the Autumn Issue of Abersoch Magazine – Subscribe Here