Mark Boler, The man behind the Mere Golf Resort and Spa
PUBLISHED: 11:53 30 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:09 27 August 2014
Mark Boler owns one of Cheshire's most iconic leisure complexes and now he's on the brink of a new venture, he tells Janet Reeder.
The Porsches, Bentleys and Ferraris filling the car park at the Mere Golf Resort and Spa just outside Knutsford show that this is no ordinary destination.
Days after visiting this iconic hotel and leisure complex was crammed with the entire Manchester United squad who were there for a “bonding session”.
But check out the comments on the internet and even ordinary mortals love the place to bits.
A huge chunk of the success of the Mere is due to the vision of co-owner, Chief Executive Mark Boler, who has not only made this a destination for wining dining, playing golf and enjoying a little pampering but as a significant hub for those who like to do business on the golf course, or hold their meetings in a relaxed location.
In fact Mark’s role was recently “formalised” when Marketing Cheshire announced him as a member of its Cheshire Ambassador Programme, which acts as a promotional platform to market the county as a destination for people to visit, study, invest, live and meet.
To those who know the area well, it feels like the Mere has been there forever. The building dates back to the 1820s and it was turned into a country club in the 1930s but it is in its latter day incarnation following a £15m investment that it has blossomed.
So much so in fact that Mark is now talking about other similar products bearing the Mere brand name.
Exciting times for the 42-year-old who admits that it was with a little reluctance that took over the role of his predecessor Max Brown at the tender age of 22. He’d been working for Great Universal Stores and White Arrow when the opportunity to join his father in the family firm.
‘I always say that everyone no matter who we are has an opportunity in life and it’s just recognising one. And the second big thing is taking it, ‘ says Mark.
‘The opportunities are there I truly believe everyone gets given an opportunity and it is up to them to recognise it and take it on.
‘Working for Great Universal Stores was an opportunity for me and coming to work here was a great opportunity and something I nearly turned down. In fact I had to bite my lip working with dad for the first year or two but it was the right thing to do although for the first two years I probably didn’t think so. That was a great opportunity.’
And now he has a huge opportunity to expand the brand into other areas. He can’t talk about this as plans are clearly in the early stages but he is excited at the prospect.
‘ We are probably going to have the opportunity to expand on site which is great for our members - certainly from the health side but we are looking to find similar products as Mere - other places not necessarily golf clubs or ready-made hotels, to put the Mere brand alongside them. Whether it is called Mere Executive or Mere Express or whatever. We’ve not started on that journey yet, but the Mere brand going forward will be excellent.’
Rewind to the 1990s and the 22-year-old was already planning an expansion with a banqueting suite that would make it the perfect place for weddings and conferences.
‘At 22 you’ve a certain amount of naiveté,’ admits Mark
You understand a bit of business and the work ethics of the family but this industry is quite tricky and learning the intricacies of what you are doing is difficult. I’m still learning 20 years down the line as it is certainly not an easy industry. From just recruitment sales the movable feast of a customers want nowadays.
And I had to learn from the people who worked for me and that was even more tricky. I had to win people onto my side and understand, get a grasp of what Mere was all about and what I had to achieve. Then after 1995 I started developing the site and spent £3.5m on a banqueting suite and obviously started getting new ideas which have brought us to where we are today.
‘We have always got to be at the forefront, keeping ahead of our competitors which I think we are now.’
He has form in the hotel industry though, having previously owned Hawkstone Park a 66 bedroom hotel and four bedroom lodge in Staffordshire.
‘We sold it in 2007 and were very successful it was a good place to learn and I then brought some of those ideas from that business here,’ he reveals.
‘We’ve not just become a hotel we have expanded our marketplace to residential, golf packages, conference banqueting, weddings...our spa is the best in the area and has just won a five bubbles rating while our restaurant has been given two rosettes . And we’ve got so much more to offer . It’s just a very good social environment.’
Perhaps too social some times for Mark who admits he lets his hair down there on occasion. However at the moment he’s been exercising, hence the new slimmed down version who says that “unfortunately” the day job does involve a lot of party nights too.
‘ I’d like to say no to one of them - whether it’s work or socialising! I do like a good party I can’t lie about that. I do like to be out and about, I do enjoy myself. Never ashamed of putting my foot through the door and give it a go. But I also spend a lot of time with the family it’s a business at the end of the day even though I’ve got many friends here it’s hard to switch off.’
He’s been with his wife Emma since they were both 19-years-old and they now have three boys five-year-old twins Alfie and Harry and 11-year-old Stephen.
‘ She has certainly helped me over the years - although she might not agree with that,’ he laughs. ‘I’m certainly not an easy guy to live with - and she’s been tremendous rock through all the ups and downs we’ve had over the last 23 years.’