A Blyth couple are celebrating the success of their spirits business by encouraging others to shop local and support the hospitality sector with a Blyth to North Shields Treasure Trail

Martin and Julie Summers run Clarence Spirits selling gin and other spirits under the brand of St Mary’s Premium Spirits, named after the iconic lighthouse. The company was formed after Julie decided to have a gin and tonic after a busy function at their restaurant and was unable to choose from the vast quantity of 144 different gins that they stocked and decided to go with a wine instead.

That sparked the idea of creating a gin so smooth and subtle it could be enjoyed “On the Rocks” by itself and because it was so smooth it could also be mixed with anything or used as a base for cocktails. It was then that St Mary’s Premium Gin was created with St Mary’s Vodka quickly following due to demand.

Now, they supply gin, vodka, and rum to around 300 venues across the region and beyond and work with businesses to provide tasting experiences as well as using their knowledge to help others promote their brands.

Their latest idea is a treasure trail involving 43 customers of St Mary’s Premium Spirits located between North Shields and Seaton Delaval via Tynemouth, Whitley Bay, and Blyth. At each venue, customers present their map when they buy one of their products and the staff stamp it to confirm that they have visited the pub or venue. There are more than £2000 worth of prizes up for grabs, but the real purpose of the trail is twofold as Martin explains:

“We are literally putting the products of St Mary’s Premium Spirits on the map but more importantly, we are encouraging people to visit pubs, cafes etc in the region that they possibly have never been to before. The hospitality trade has suffered more than most in recent years with COVID and now with the rising cost of living crisis so anything we can do to encourage people to go out and use these venues can only be good news for the industry. We’re also delighted to use this opportunity to help local charity Cash for Kids North East too.”

Martin and Julie hope to replicate the trail idea at key times like Christmas and in different parts of the region too as its popularity grows.

“The beauty of the trail is that it doesn’t cost any of the businesses taking part any money. The venue owner is already selling our products and the trail is available free at each venue with details on our Facebook page and website. Already we are encouraged by the amount of people taking part sending us selfies of them enjoying themselves and the trail still has until the middle of September to run,” said Julie.

At various dates during the length of the trail, the couple will be sending nautical characters such as Captain Jack Sparrow and a Mermaid to family friendly venues to add a bit of extra fun to the trail and encourage more people to take part.

Like a lot of businesses, the pandemic had a marked effect on the couple’s income. Starting the business in 2018, they saw their revenue doubled in the following year and also in 2020. With the pandemic, the business held its own thanks to an increase in home deliveries and a positive move to creating more online sales.  The pandemic also gave the couple time to rethink about their business and they launched St Mary’s Rum and rebranded the St Mary’s range to their current brand encompassing all spirits.

The next stage for the company is to relocate to a custom-made premises where they can make, distribute, and sell their products as well as offer educational experiences for those wanting to know more about the process and the many tastes involved.

Details of the trail can be found at www.facebook.com/stmaryspremiumspirits

Images by Steve Brock Photography

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