Craig and Susan Richman: Bluestone Bar and Kitchen
For the Richmans, liveability and an enabling business environment made Launceston the ideal place to move and start a new business venture.
More than 20 years ago, Craig Richman and Susan Taylor left Tasmanian shores for the big wide world. Three children later they have returned home adding a new hotel to their flock.
Craig and Susan finished high school, swung on backpacks and headed overseas, as many Tasmanians do. Craig intended it to be a two year sojourn, but 10 years on he was still working in the UK consulting across telecommunications, IT and sales, while Susan worked as a chartered accountant. Despite having grown up only hours apart in Tasmania, London was where they first met.
“We married in the UK and later I was offered a role in Hong Kong, then in Singapore working for global payments company Visa,” says Craig. It was here that Susan reinvented herself as a photographer following the Global Financial Crisis. After 13 years in Asia and baby number three, it was time to decide where home is.
The Richmans researched half a dozen potential accommodation properties across regional Australia, with their eye firmly on Tasmania. Despite more than 30 prospective buyers for the 52-room Launceston Sebel Apartment Hotel, Craig and Susan secured the 4.5 star accommodation.
“We had no experience in the hotel industry,” adds Craig. “We’ve stayed in plenty of hotels so we thought that held us in good stead! Actually, my family have been involved in hotel properties across the country so we had good guidance.”
They settled back into Tasmanian life with ease, the girls happy in their new school environment and soon the fast paced Asian-based lifestyle was replaced with games of cricket in the backyard.
“I play social tennis and netball,” says Susan. “There’s a real sense of community here in Launceston that we love. There’s a strong community around the school, across sports and it extends right through to our Harvest Market and art festivals. It’s the type of environment we hoped to raise our children in.”
“Living in Launceston reminds me of a simpler time and I mean that in a really positive way. From a lifestyle and cost of living perspective, Launceston has really delivered,” enthuses Susan.
Although the husband and wife team loved their years abroad, Craig does not miss his 90 minute UK commute each way to work, nor the 45 minute train ride in Singapore, pressed up against the side of a window. Today, he travels nine minutes to work and can duck home easily if he’s forgotten anything.
The Richmans have revelled in their new industry and have lifted the Sebel to new heights. In December 2017 they opened Bluestone Bar and Kitchen. The new venue is triple the size of their original restaurant with alfresco dining and a modern Australian menu with strong Asian undercurrents.
“We’ve engaged a Korean and a Taiwanese chef, while our head chef spends time in Japan. We share the Tasmanian produce story and are proud of our 25 Tasmanian gins behind the bar.
“We’re delighted with the response to Bluestone,” says Craig. “From guest reviews and our internal survey system, every second or third review mentions the great bar and restaurant. This has had a flow on effect to our accommodation business as we continue to evolve through signature events and constant reinvention.
Craig and Susan are a well-designed team. Susan’s focus is naturally in accounting, along with rates management, HR and overseeing the restaurant. Craig’s skills are in IT and infrastructure management along with marketing, each naturally gravitating to their strong suits. However, it’s not all about work these days. It’s also about getting out into Tassie’s fresh air too.
“The air pollution in Hong Kong was not good and we don’t miss the humidity in Singapore either – that heat off the pavement would force us indoors,” says Craig. “Mainland Australians often have a dim view of the Tasmanian climate. It can be brisk in the winter but you also get some wonderful clear, blue sky days.”
These days, when they’re not welcoming guests and organising a five course degustation menu, the family can be found outside in the fresh air. The Cataract Gorge is a favourite, whether it’s the Duck Reach Walk or a quick loop through their local urban playground.
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories or visit Business Tasmania.