BEN Cleary isn’t one for doing things by halves.

He might be satisfying the palates of beer and wine drinkers across the region with his new venture, but he’s not about to sit back and enjoy the initial fruits of his labours either.

Mr Cleary owns The Pip Stop, which operates from a former 1950s Morgan car garage in Maiden Law, near Lanchester, County Durham.

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The business offers more than 300 varieties of wine and 120 different beers, both in its shop and online.

However, Mr Cleary is quick to highlight The Pip Stop is more than your usual off licence.

The Mini Coopers embedded in its walls, harking back to the days when the building serviced the motoring trade, are one give away.

But his claims go further than the striking artwork.

Mr Cleary, a former Majestic Wine manager, only opened the Maiden Law site last year but is already plotting further growth with a second store in Newcastle or Durham City, and wants to offer customers tasting rooms and what he calls interactive cellars.

The 27-year-old said: “In the first year our plan was to try as much as possible and see what worked and what didn’t.

“There were certainly some surprises.

“For a start we never expected our beer sales to be so high but craft ales and beers have really taken off and while the majority of our online sales were for wine to start with, now around 70 per cent are for beer.”

Mr Cleary also said he wants to increase his business’ online presence to reach new customers across the UK.

He said: “There is no getting away from the fact we are based in a very rural area and our location is definitely one of the things that makes us so unique.

“However, there is a limit on how much business the shop can bring in so our plan now is to really focus on our online offering.

“Around 20 per cent of our sales come through the website and our plan is to increase that to around 35 per cent in the next year.

“One of the ways we hope to achieve this is by setting up an online wine club.”

Mr Cleary also revealed he wants to run more events, such as wine tastings and pop-up bars, and tap into food and drink trends, such as the popularity of vegan wine and beers.

He said: “We tried lots of different events last year and now have a good idea of which work well for us.

“We already offer tasting evenings at the shop but plan to do more private events in homes or in conjunction with local businesses.

“We will be looking at expanding our bar service and running pop-up bars at festivals and events.

“We also took part in a number of vegan food festivals last year, which are perfect for us as we stock a large number of vegan-friendly wines and beers, so this is something we hope to continue.”

However, Mr Cleary said while there is much to keep both himself as his assistant managers, Jen Scott and David Smith, busy, he won’t be hurrying through any decisions.

He added: “One thing I’ve learnt over the last year is not to rush into anything.

“We have a clear vision of what we want to achieve and I believe it’s worth taking our time to find that.

“I want the next shop to be really interactive, possibly combining the wine and beer with a food offering to really give customers a rounded experience.

“This is something me and the team here are really passionate about and we’re very excited about what we can achieve.”

Five minutes with... Ben Cleary

Favourite North-East building and why? The Tree House, in Alnwick. It’s architectural genius and simplicity all in one. Experiences are so important and this is one you won’t get anywhere else.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? My first job was at the age of 15 working within the Lanchester Group’s bottling plant, Greencroft Bottling. I got paid about £4.50 an hour.

What is the worst job you've had? It has to be glass collecting at the Love Shack nightclub, in Durham. Being barged back and forth by drunks as you stacked glasses over your head was not the ideal way to spend weekends.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? Anything and everything Thai. Those of you who have been to Thailand and have tried the authentic Thai grub would hopefully welcome my favourite main dish, the Massaman curry. Chilli and lemongrass are key components in almost every dish and that is by no means a bad thing. Fish cakes to start and a bucket of Sangsom Thai Rum and mixer for dessert.

What would your superpower be? To fly. Who wouldn’t want to be able to travel for free to anywhere in the world whenever you wanted? I could also do with a little superhuman strength to take my loved ones with me.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Stephen Fry, Julius Caesar, Jack Whitehall and David Mitchell.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? I’m a bit of a geek and love technology. I recently bought all the components for a desktop computer, which people in the biz call a rig. I spent around £2,000 but off the shelf it would have been closer to £4,000.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? I have to confess I don’t use Twitter personally, but if I were to follow anyone, it would probably be Russell Brand. He’s a clever and very opinionated chap and I can’t help but be interested or irritated by everything he says.

Favourite book? The Emperor Series, by Conn Iggulden

When did you last cry? I have rather overactive tear ducts, so I do shed a tear when I get embarrassed or cringe over something, which was only last week when someone used the term, ‘let’s shred’ at the gym.

What is your greatest achievement? It’s early days yet but it would have to be starting my own venture within the Lanchester Group, creating its first retail outlet. I have recently been shortlisted for regional merchant of the year in the International Wine Challenge and I'm up against businesses that have been running for decades, so just being nominated is overwhelming. Fingers crossed for the event.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? Simple yet always effective: Customer is always King. Majestic Wine, where I used to work, always had an ethos which encompassed every decision that was made – good old customer service. People will always come back for great service. Mistakes in business are a fact of life but how we fix them is what’s really important.

Favourite animal and why? My little dog, Hugo. Loyal, loving and just a pleasure to be around. He has his benefits in the business world too. Being a miniature Dachshund, AKA a designer dog, we use him for some of our branding and social media, which always goes down a treat.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? Probably one of my good friends, Imran Aziz. This year he turned into a pro golfer. I hate to lose in anything I do so it’s no surprise I am yet to play him.

What was the last band you saw live? My fiancée’s dad’s band, The Desperados. Old school rock at its best.

Describe your perfect night in: As a couple, we are very sociable, so it would have to involve friends. A dinner party would be the go to. As a lover of food and wine you can’t really beat it.

In another life I would be... A designer. Whether it be graphic or mechanical, visuals are everything when it comes to many products. Most people pick wine by how pretty/funky the label is… Don’t you?

Who would play you in a film of your life? I would like to think it would be Tom Hardy. In reality, probably somewhere closer to Graham Norton, as I am forever getting told I share many features.

What irritates you? Wine snobs. There is a real snobbery in the wine world and in my opinion it does hold the trade back. People want to feel at ease when choosing or learning about wine and the unfortunate reality is, there are many out there who use their wine knowledge to belittle and intimidate. Not me, it needs to be accessible to all and I pick my audience when asked a question.

What's your secret talent? Fire Poi, from Thailand. The art of swinging balls of fire around your body and trying not to kill yourself. It often comes out when I’ve had a few, but with fuelled confidence, never goes particularly well.