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Salford-based brewery marks incredible turnaround after suffering devastating fire

Rik Garner runs Manchester-based First Chop Credit: Manchester Evening News

Last year Salford-based brewery First Chop suffered a devastating fire that caused £250,000 worth of damage.

Owner Rik Garner was suffering from a serious leg break at home when he took the call about his beloved brewery.

However, a year on and First Chop has found a new home enabling it to expand its operation to the extent it is on track to double its turnover to around £1m over the next 12 months.

The Salford-based brewery has also recently agreed its first exporting deal to a distributor in Italy, marking a phenomenal turnaround for the company.

In 2013, Garner established First Chop on Victoria Row railway arches in Salford after financing it with loans from family and friends. He even sold his car to fund that first equipment.

There he built up a small but solid team of staff and together they launched other beers including TEA, DOC, RED, POP, and AVA, which is named after his daughter.

Then the fire devastated its base on in Orsdall Lane, causing £250,000 worth of damage.

The new home is a 5,000 square foot building on Barton Hall Industrial Estate in Eccles, so the business has managed to stay in Salford.

First Chop became fully operational again in May after a seven-month break, during which the firm’s insurance enabled them to continue paying their five staff while they did training courses to expand their brewing knowledge.

First Chop is already served in the Mexican food chain Wahaca and sold in Co-Op stores. Garner is also in advanced talks with other supermarkets to start selling the brand.

The company is also keen to retain its local links.

Image shows new location in Eccles Credit: Manchester Evening News

“It sounds strange to say this, but getting a call telling me the business had gone up in flames couldn’t have happened at a better time,” he said.

I was sat at home after a horrendous leg break from falling off my bike and was on strong medication for the pain.

You’d have expected that sort of news to be crushing, especially as things were really taking off. But I was on such a high dose of morphine at the time, that I was totally at ease with it and took it in my stride. Business was going well before the fire with a turnover of £500,000, so we were determined to keep fighting on, before finding our own place we were able to rent some space at another local brewery one day a week.

After our own investment and help from our insurers, we have now been able to move into new, larger premises that will allow us to ramp up our brewing capacity to up to 20,000 litres a week.

– Rik Garner, First Chop