A LEIGH businessman is set to re-open a popular Rochford pub after being a regular customer in his youth.

Gary Downham has taken over the Cherry Tree, which is situated on Stambridge Road.

The site will be the third of Pie & Pint Inns’ portfolio, having already enjoyed success at the Hare at Roxwell, just outside Chelmsford - and the Castle at Great Leighs.

And Gary, 52, is looking forward to opening the Cherry Tree’s doors once again in late summer.

He said: “I’m from Leigh and used to come here as a lad, as all my friends did.

“I’m 53 this year, but some of my friends are in their sixties and seventies and everyone knows the Cherry Tree.

“We launched our Facebook page last week and we’ve already got up to 450 likes, so I think that it will be as popular as it was before.

“We’ve had a few structural problems because the pub had been neglected for many years.

“The flooring had totally collapsed and there are a lot of structural areas that need to be refurbished, which we didn’t anticipate.”

The Cherry Tree will offer breakfast seven days a week and boast homemade food bought from local suppliers.

There will be a patio garden, bar and a brand new commercial kitchen on site, while it is also hoped that the bed and breakfast rooms will be developed.

Gary, who is the sole director of Pie & Pint Inns, is expecting the Cherry Tree to prove as successful as his other two pubs.

“It’s a family business in some respects because my partner is the company accountant and we’ve been local all of our lives,” he added.

“This was a very popular pub for many generations. I think the people like the fact that they are near towns, but in the countryside.

“The Cherry Tree became available after there had been numerous other tenants that had been in here and didn’t have the finances to develop the site.

“We opened our first pub, the Hare at Roxwell, eight years ago and the bank manager’s view was ‘why do you want to open a pub when they’re all shutting because of the recession?’

“But our pubs have continued to grow through our brands and offer of free bread with meals and a cake counter containing more than 30 different cheesecakes, which are rotated.

“People often choose their dessert before they’ve sat down for their dinner and we’re seen as good value for money.

“I think people eat with their eyes and so we will have that at the Cherry Tree as well.”