Artan and Sarah run The Forge restaurant in Santon and The Abbey restaurant in Ballasalla, alongside property company Bravo Homes ltd. They say that living in the Isle of Man has enabled them to do all this while still enjoying quality time with their four children, Dora, 12, Ruben, 11, Edith, nine, and Alban, five.
‘We came here in 2006,’ said Sarah. ‘My parents had moved over in April and we were visiting that year, when I was pregnant with our first child.
‘It was one of the best summers on record so we had a wonderful time, enjoying all the Island has to offer when the sun is shining. We just thought, this is paradise and we have got to come.’
They realised there were business opportunities on the island, too.
‘We had sold our restaurant in England and had been renovating properties for 18 months, so it seemed like a good option to be near my parents for when our first child was born and start a business doing the same thing as we were doing already’
When they moved to the island, Sarah, from Shropshire and Artan, who is Albanian, originally concentrated on the property side of business.
The call to return to the hospitality trade was always there and when the opportunity came to work with Manx National Heritage and open The Abbey, on the edge of the grounds of Rushen Abbey, 2010, it was too good to resist.
The business has grown since then and is popular among island visitors, locals and high net worth individuals on their way to boarding their private jet at the nearby airport.
‘We hold many weddings and major events every year, with popularity growing due to our individual and exclusive approach to each event, the personal touch,’ said Sarah.
The Abbey has been going for almost 10 years and was the first of a new wave of modern British restaurants to open in July 2010.
The couple has recently been recognised for supporting the Manx Breast Cancer Support Group, raising more than £50,000 so far and attending a reception at government house to celebrate.
‘This is another great gift of business on the island, you make connections and soon get to know and become friends with lots of interesting people from global business, government, sports groups and charities, you always have the feeling that your contribution to island life, and your opinions, they really matter.’
After discovering The Forge, in its picturesque setting near the main road between Castletown and Douglas, the pair promised themselves that if it ever became available, they would take that opportunity. That opportunity presented itself in early 2013 but the beginning was more exciting than they had planned.
With heavy snowfall blocking access to the premises and the discovery of pregnancy number four- it was a very busy and fruitful year indeed.
‘There’s definitely something in the water here!’ laughed Sarah.
She added: ‘We couldn’t do what we do now if we were in the UK,’ said Sarah. ‘We could not have two businesses like this where you can just lock up and go at the end of the day and get where you need to quickly.
‘The kids can be spread out but still not far away, so easy to collect them – and it is safe.’
A major bonus of the Isle of Man is the power of word of mouth. If you have a good business, the message soon spreads.
And a supportive business community is always helpful for putting you in touch with the right tradesmen, while the government’s welcoming approach to new businesses is also crucial.
‘We have always been very well supported. That kind of opportunity just does not happen in the UK,’ said Sarah.
‘The direct accessibility, to tap into the people you need to speak to in government, has been amazing. If you want to get something done, that really helps.’
Sarah also had praise for the Isle of Man’s main hospital, Noble’s Hospital, in Braddan,. She said its close proximity, wherever you are, and the speed with which you are attended to compares favourably with hospitals in the UK.
‘All of our children were born at Noble’s, all wonderful experiences, and I always worry when we’re away now as we’re so used to the personal touch we get at the hospital, and how quickly everything happens here, I feel safe knowing people get to know your family over time, and really care.’
Given her many years’ experience in the hospitality trade – it dates back to her childhood – it is no surprise that Sarah has wanted to share some of her knowledge.
She has published The Abbey-Forge Cookbook, which is full of recipes based on ingredients that can be sourced locally in the Isle of Man. In it she shares her passion for enjoying good food with good company, in the ideal setting.
The Isle of Man has proven to be just that.