Welcome to the inaugural edition of Grout & About – a brand-spanking new semi-regular feature in which we visit some of our favourite bars, venues, and eateries and take an in-depth look at their unique interior style. First up is Klay Pizzeria in Stoke on Trent; a very stylish, very new, and very trendy bar and restaurant in the city’s Cultural Quarter. We caught up with proprietors Andy Cooke and Georgie Stanway to get the lowdown on their style influences and to find out more about how Tile Mountain products allowed them to achieve their vision…
Nice little business you’ve got there – what were the circumstances behind its inception?
Georgie: The idea originated when I lived in Sweden but it was more of an NYC slice type vibe. Pizza is incredibly popular in Sweden but it’s bought as a whole pie. You even have to pay to get it cut! Over there it’s more of thing to take home and share with the family. I left Sweden with the intention of returning to Stoke to go back to university, within months I changed my mind again and began helping my mates set up a small urban/skate clothing retail business. Being inspired by these guys and other local independent businesses such as tsp. and Bottlecraft I started to realise that what I wanted to do was achievable. I took the plunge after a pretty shocking lunch date in Hanley – as soon as I finished eating I went to Andy’s office and pitched him my idea. He was on board straight away.
What influenced the choice of location? Was the character of the building big factor or was it more a case of it being a blank canvass on which to stamp your own style?
Georgie: We’d looked at a number of buildings around the city centre but they all fell flat, Andy spotted the building by chance as it was a private rental with just a number pinned up on the window.
Andy: The building needed completely renovating but the location and vibe was perfect – larger than what we originally wanted but the original features and frontage were amazing.
Klay is quite unlike most eateries in Stoke, both in its food offering and aesthetics. Did you make a conscious decision to go for what we’d describe as a ‘Williamsburg’ look with the decor (in keeping with the kind of style you’d see in bars/cafes in places like Mcr’s Northern Quarter). Or is it more of a combination of your own personal style?
Georgie: I would say the place has elements of both, myself and Andy have very similar tastes. We were both very much on the same page when it came to aesthetics and atmosphere. We also refused to have certain materials or colours from the get go purely because a lot of other places in the city centre already had them.
Andy: Rather than being on trend we tried to stay a step ahead and anticipate what would be the next fashionable thing. At times, the building did dictate what we could actually achieve though – the older the building, the more problems you will encounter.
When planning the initial fit-out, did you know you wanted have tiled areas or did it only become apparent as the dining floor developed?
Georgie: It was one of the very first things we decided, I believe Andy suggested it and I was completely on board. I sent him a few suggestions and we settled on the Linear White Gloss from Tile Mountain. They are perfect for the look we wanted.
Andy: Tiles are ideal for restaurants and bars – I actually regret not having more tiled areas!
Was your choice of decor & colour scheme influenced by the tiles you chose, or did you pick the tiles to fit in with a style you’d chosen for the rest of the room?
Georgie: We already had the colour scheme mapped out, Andy is a big fan of contrast and juxtaposition so we chose white tiles to give it a clean fresh line against the dark grey ceilings.
Andy: I also took into consideration that we don’t get a great deal of natural light; I knew that having white tile would help with that so it was an easy decision to make.
What made you decide that the tiles you chose were the right tiles for Klay and its ‘vibe’?
Andy: We had discussed what we wanted after both looking at other shops, ‘subway style’ is something we always wanted and the size of the Linear tiles was just what we were looking for.
How long did the project take to complete and did you do the tiling yourself or hire a professional tiler?
Georgie: We hired a professional tiler. It was a big job and wasn’t necessarily something I was prepared to take on. I’ll generally at least try to turn my hand to anything and give it ago but this was something we wanted to look perfect so we got the pros in!
What part of the fit-out was most difficult and why?
Georgie: Dealing with unexpected problems was the most challenging – the building is very old and it became apparent very quickly that multiple previous tenants had done quick, substandard jobs in places. We rewired and replumbed the entire building, which was a huge job!
Andy: There were lots of hidden issues that we discovered after tearing everything back to bare brick too. Thankfully our landlords are understanding and work with us, they’ve helped out with some areas and can see how much time, effort, and money we’ve put into making Klay a success.
A little birdie tells us that you’ve just completed a bit of a refit. What were the reasons for this and how has the space changed?
Georgie: We’ve tripled the size of our bar! We designed the kitchen and bar section of the restaurant multiple times and realised that we had to just take the plunge with it. You won’t know how well it will function until 8pm on a Saturday night and you’re tripping over each other.
Andy: We also wanted to expand our drinks selection for a while now, so we’re all excited to make these changes. The kitchen size has also doubled, so we’ve got some new menu ideas in mind to make good use of it!
What advice would you give to any entrepreneurs considering undertaking a similar design/fit-out project?
Georgie: Plan, plan, and plan even more. If you’re hiring external contractors then use people that are recommended to you, get multiple quotes and don’t just take the first offer you get. Do some research yourself so you have an understanding of what tradesmen are talking to you about – I’ve gained some experience from this refit and discovered jobs that weren’t done to a standard we’re happy with so we’ve had to go back and rectify these.
Andy: Don’t cut corners, you’ll only end up paying out again somewhere down the line. Accept that it’s going to be expensive too – materials and skilled workers don’t come cheap but if you do your research properly the end product should be great.
What would you say to independent business owners who are thinking about buying tiles from Tile Mountain?
Andy: Go for it, all the staff we’ve dealt with have been incredibly helpful and the price was unbeatable.
Georgie: The sheer number of different ranges Tile Mountain stocks means you’ll be spoiled for choice like we were. Delivery was quick and didn’t cost anything either, which is great for small independent businesses like us who don’t have the cash flow to splurge on needless expenses.
Klay Pizzeria & Bar is situated in Stoke on Trent’s Cultural Quarter and is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12noon – 10pm. Visit klaypizzeria.com or call 01782 769 249 for details.