Changing Hands

Changing Hands

Jersey born entrepreneur Lawrence Huggler is the man behind a great many successful businesses both here and in the UK.  He returned to Jersey after spending a number of years living and working in London and launched Bohemia Bar & Restaurant, which quickly became Jersey’s most successful Michelin starred restaurant, holding one for 12 years, and counting. 

It was thanks to excellent timing that the year they were ready to launch The Club Hotel & Spa, the island’s first luxury boutique hotel coincided with the awarding of their star in Bohemia “many people think we designed it to happen this way, when it actual fact it was just incredible timing.  We weren’t quite brave enough to launch the two together, but of course it worked out brilliantly for the hotel.”

At the same time he launched which after joining with another online beauty retailer, founded by two other Jersey entrepreneurs, has grown into Europe’s leading online beauty site and while now majority owned by a private equity house Lawrence remains on the board.

Not busy enough Lawrence was looking for a new project, which brings us onto his latest venture, the beautiful pink drink he is juggling in his portrait.  Lanique, is a spirit liqueur made with Attar of Rose, originating in Poland this drink and Lawrence have had a long relationship.  “We were the only bar on the island stocking Lanique when we opened Bohemia, since then others have followed, but it was this long standing relationship that made me interested in buying the business.  I knew the alcohol market was one I wanted to work with, but differentiating yourself in something like wine is very difficult.  It took me some time to convince the former owner of Lanique to sell it to me, but he knew it was going to be in good hands, due to our long history with the spirit.”

“The unique pink drink is created by steam distilling thousands of rose petals sourced from the East. Due to the amount of rose petals needed to create just a small amount of liquid, Attar of Rose is more expensive than gold in terms of weight.”

It was first discovered and enjoyed over 200 years ago and remained a firm favourite all the way through to the roaring ‘20s, but with the start of the Second World War and the rise of Communism, the production of Lanique ceased and the drink was almost consigned to the pages of history. With the fall of Communism and the reopening of Eastern Europe, curators found themselves unearthing the fascinating history of Lanique and its long-lost recipe. After years of work by dedicated artisans, Lanique was finally available for people to enjoy again.

September saw a massive score for the brand when Lanique was introduced into 70 Slug and Lettuce bars around the UK.  This latest great listing for Jersey based Lanique is on top of recent successes for the unique drink including listings with the UKs biggest online supermarket Ocado as well as being available in prestige bars and restaurants across the UK inc Nobu Mayfair, The Ivy Grill, Covent Garden, Albert Schloss Manchester and many others. Lanique is also available in South Africa, Canada and soon to be in Australia. Locally in Jersey Lanique is enjoyed in all the top bars and restaurants as well as retailing via all the drinks shops and Grande Marche superstores.  We’re big fans of the brand’s signature serve, the Lanique & Lime.

Whilst it seems that all he touches turns out pretty well, I was intrigued to know if he’s ever taken a wrong turn in business “I launched a garden products website that didn’t work.  After about six months we found we couldn’t buy the products cheap enough due to our scale, so we didn’t have the margin to compete.  I also learnt two good lessons: more research would have worked that out, looking at buying and selling prices closer and talking more to suppliers upfront. Second, it’s great to first test a business idea cheaply before committing large sums, amazing what you learn quickly!

It’s thanks to this experience that we’re working really hard to make Lanique a success in the UK before committing to the larger US market, which is obviously most expensive to enter. We have had so much great feedback from distributors and bars and learnt how we need to market and distribute Lanique.  If we had done this in UK and US at the same time we’d have spent 10 times as much but not been any further forward than we are.”

Jersey is now well and truly his and his family’s home and it’ll come as no surprise that the island’s tourism industry is something that holds a particular interest for Lawrence “it’s great to see the work Visit Jersey are doing to promote the island.  When my wife and I lived in London, before we had children, we would use the low cost airline providers to explore places on the weekend.  Saving on our airfares meant we had money to spend when we arrived, which is what we’re seeing more of in the hotel and restaurant now.  For us the last 12 months have been really positive in both the hotel and the restaurant, with lots of new faces coming from the UK.”

At the end of our time together Lawrence joked that we’d spoken about two of the least manly things you possibly could “pink drinks and cosmetics”, but then we had also spent a fair amount of time talking about cars and the joys of long distance driving prior to that, as I’d just returned from the Galleryrally.  In fact it may come as a surprise to many that he said that he’d often thought whilst driving in Europe that “being a long distance lorry driver would be a great job”, not for everyone we agreed, but perhaps that could be next on his list of things to do.

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