Tonbridge is to play host to well-known establishments from Tunbridge Wells after the Old Fire Station launched as a place for pop-up businesses last week.
The iconic building was bought by Richard Collins at auction at the start of the year.
The successful businessman had originally intended it to be used solely as a new office for his company Medischeme, which is now based on the first floor, but instead decided he wanted it to be a place ‘the whole town could enjoy’.
He added 25 per cent of the events at the pop-up venture would be offered to charities.
Among the companies from Tunbridge Wells which will be using the venue in the run-up to Christmas are Fuggles and Sankey’s, as well as Hattons, an up and coming catering firm.
Mr Collins explained: “They’re all very successful businesses and Tonbridge is missing top class restaurants and beer cafes. I wanted to invite the best.”
Restaurateur Matthew Sankey was delighted to be invited to use the venue for two weekends during December.
He said: “I’ve been looking for a site in Tonbridge for three years. It’s great being able to do the pop-up, which will be modelled on The Pantiles champagne and oyster bar, as it will allow us to speak to people and test the water.
“Tonbridge is a promising market for us.”
It is already looking as if the move has paid off, with both Saturdays fully booked.
Alex Greig, who owns award-winning beer café Fuggles on Grosvenor Road, also saw Tonbridge as a good place potentially to expand his business.
He sees the town as a having more potential than a site in Tunbridge Wells, which he now believes to be a ‘saturated’ market.
He said: “I am looking for a second site and this will help me see what the demand is like in Ton-bridge. It is a very up and coming town and it will be good to do business in.”
Tunbridge Wells-based Michelin star chef Daniel Hatton, whose business Hattons involves bespoke home dining, is looking to cement his reputation in Tonbridge.
Mr Hatton, who only set up his company six months ago, said: “This is a great opportunity for start-ups like us and great for the town.”
The Old Fire Station will be open most days until Christmas, hosting a variety of different events and establishments.
Richard Collins added that if interest remains high, he will look to expand the programme into next year and beyond, and he has already been inundated with queries from interested parties, ranging from top London chefs to those running a cafe for the deaf.
The venue will host tea-tasting with master blender Alex Probyn, bespoke tailoring from Hardman Hemming and pop-up restaurants run by MasterChef contestant Adam Handling, among others.
Mr Collins said: “I want there to be something for everyone. For instance, if people are not interested in fine dining, we are hosting a local florist who will teach people how to make their own Christmas wreaths.
“I want it to be open to a wide variety of people. We have had some very weird and wacky ideas sent to us. And some we may do.”
Mr Collins is confident that the agreements he has with the pop-ups will be ‘commercially viable for everybody’.
Mr Collins also wants to clarify a point which has popped up repeatedly since he bought the Old Fire Station.
He said: “I didn’t remove the pole, it never came with one.”