Stange & Co was started in Llandudno somewhere around the turn of the century. It is not quite known how William Isaiah Rowlands first acquired Stange & Co, but there was a lot of turmoil around in 1920-21; having just experienced the First World War a hugely costly war in respect of both lives and money, the Western world was then driven into the Great Depression an extremely sharp deflationary recession. William had also been known to be a bookmaker taking a keen interest in the nags, especially with his younger brother Robin being of mind and stature to become a jockey.
Through one or more of these predicaments, it made it possible for William to acquire the interest in the Fruiterer and Florist business known as ‘Stange & Co.’ in Mostyn street, Llandudno. He and his brother had been working as a fruiterer prior to that and is likely that they were working in Stange’s. This must have been quite a turnaround in fortunes for the family, his father Isaiah arriving in Llandudno some years prior from Llangollen as a general labourer and lodging in a local family’s house. Whilst in the area he met his wife Jane and they married and had nine children, their sixth being William.
William (known as Willie) went on to marry Eva Emma Taylor Mould who moved from West Ham in London to Llandudno. They went onto have five children John, William, Mary, James and Ivor. William (known as Bill) and James (known as Jim) followed their father into the business of fruit and flowers and successfully grew the business to include a tobacconist and barbers, a hairdressers and sweet shop.
The arrival of the supermarkets had led to a decline in the independent grocer’s business and people were starting to discover that tobacco wasn’t quite the wonderful stuff that tobacco companies had led them to believe. So Stange & Co. needed a shift in direction. Bill had realised there was money to be made in property and had acquired a freehold warehouse in the centre of Llandudno. This was the old Dunphy’s bakery & warehouse, which used to supply their several grocery shops around the area. But now Stange had this bakery… what should be done with it? It was the late 70’s and at the time pubs appeared to be doing a roaring trade, with healthy margins and Brits appearing to have an unquenchable thirst. So it was decided by Bill that the local pubs weren’t really up to much and that he could do a better job himself. This was despite the fact that Bill wasn’t a huge frequenter of pubs and had certainly never worked behind a bar. But with a strong belief in what made a good pub it was decided to convert the warehouse into a pub. This was to be Stange & Co.’s first foray into pubs and gave rise to the Cottage Loaf in Llandudno.
It was a bumpy start……with lack of funds and experience, money was hard to come by and in the late 70s and early 80s an interest rate of 15% was not uncommon, so with a bit of help from the brewery the pub was built and opened in September of 1981. The folks of Llandudno seemed to agree with Bill on what made a good pub and they came in their droves, for their famous lunches and the best cask beer around. It was a steep learning curve, but Bill soon got the hang of it and started adding the odd pub here and there, and pulled together the beginnings of a pub group.
As Bill grew longer in the tooth and his wife Fay becoming ill, so it was decided that Stange’s day to day rein’s were given over to a group of courageous or foolhardy men to carry the thing along. Ralph Leech who had helped Bill build his estate, a true legend of a publican, and if anyone who lives on or near the Wirral has never heard of him they can’t get out much. Malcolm McNeill a legendary bean counter from within the brewing greats of Grand Met, Courage and John Smiths. And Kev Chin a man of seemingly endless energy and talents (these including violin playing, DJing, electrician, decorator, car mechanic) but could certainly get a pub to bursting and a job done. By this time Nick, Bill’s youngest son had taken an interest in Stange and was monitoring progress from the capital, his base after leaving Llandudno to go to university. Nick’s experience of slightly less provincial businesses in London gave him the skills and grit to steer this unlikely band of men and pubs through sometimes challenging times.
In the meantime Bill’s grandson Dan and granddaughter Zoe had been earning their beer tokens at the pubs on the Wirral whilst doing A-levels and at university and probably spending most of their wages on the other side of the bar, but something must of sparked an interest, as after spells at university and out in the big wide world and the odd wrong turn, Stange is now in the hands of the fourth generation of the family Dan & Zoe and is going from strength to strength. With plans to invest further in those sites we already have and acquire new sites.