This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Park People Q Lines Michelle Michael Grand Pier

The important thing was that the new building should be as future proof as possible because we had to put our hands in our pockets, more than the insurance because it’s a bigger thing. We wanted it to remind people of the old structure, so part of the remit for the architect was that it had to have four towers because the previous building had four towers. We’ve got two piling systems in there now, the existing one which holds up the deck and 64 new piles that hold up the new building, which is 60% bigger in bulk than the previous one. Before there was only ever about 55% of the building customer facing because historically the previous owners were slot machine manufacturers and used a lot of the space for storage and work on site. Now we have about 95% customer facing.

More than two years after buying the Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare in South West England,

Michelle and Kerry Michael have yet to open for a full season. A fire in July 2008 wrecked the pier’s pavilion and most of the rides and attractions inside it. The brother and sister duo decided to a build a bigger and better pavilion to take its place but a catalogue of delays means that even now, at the end of the summer season, the Michaels still cannot name the date the £51 million ($79m/€61m)

transformation will open the public. Owen Ralph hears Michelle Michael’s story and views the progress that has been made

Why did you and Kerry decide to buy the pier, and what is your background? We used to have a garden centre, but our predominant business was mass market insurance. We’ve still got our original insurance broking business, a number of hotels and properties, plus two very large restaurants in Bristol. We’ve always had the food and beverage experience as part of our upbringing. I think the pier’s just such an unusual asset to own, they don’t come up for sale very often. Once we had been on there to have a look we realised it was very much the same as it was 20 years ago when we played on it as kids. It was a solid business that had been in the same family [the Brenners] for 64 years so we knew that we were buying something that even if you left it as it was would make you a reasonable return. However, we knew that if we made it even better then we could really be successful at it.

What were some of the initial changes you made to the pier after taking over? The new go-kart track was one of the biggest. As well as the rides, all of the food, beverage and retail is run in-house and we went from around 40p per head spend on catering to around £1.80 [$2.75/€2.15] in the first few months. The biggest success story for us though was the retail. In the whole of the previous year the previous owners sold I think £29,000 of retail. In the six months up until the time of the fire we sold £360,000 ($555,00/€430,000).

MAIN PICTURE: Michelle Michael with brother Kerry RIGHT: The new pavilion building


How determined were you to rebuild after the fire and how did you go about it? I don’t think there was ever a time we thought we wouldn’t. The worst thing was that it happened on our watch. The previous owners had looked after it for 64 years and pretty much nothing had happened to it; we were the new kids on the block and all of a sudden in six months it was gone. That was a massive responsibility for us.


What challenges have you faced? We had a massive challenge with the council and other interested parties, like English Heritage and Natural England, all of who have a vested interest in how the building in constructed and what it looks like. We were building a quarter of a mile out to sea, and part of the pier only had a two-and-a-half ton weight limit, so we couldn’t take materials down the pier. We ended up having jack-up barges in the sea either side of the pier with cranes on top lifting the gear and building in situ. It was a very difficult working environment; in addition to this I think we had one of the harshest winters for about 30 years.

Who has been of assistance to you? We met the then chief executive of BALPPA [British Association of Amusement Parks, Piers and Attractions], Colin Dawson and his team, when we went on a summer tour to Germany. Immediately they made us feel very at home. They came into their own after the fire when they were able to open doors to other attractions and allow us one-to-ones with their management teams. We have had behind the scenes tours in the UK, in Europe and internationally, thanks to BALPPA. These attractions don’t see us as competitors; they see us as colleagues. When we are open, I hope that we can share some of our best practice in return.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40
Produced with Yudu -