Marsha and Geoff Hall certainly never expected to find themselves selling beautiful sparkling wines. A bespoke shoe designer and vintage car dealer respectively, they hadn’t pulled pints since college, and knew almost nothing about the English sparkling wine scene.
But at an event one autumn, inspiration struck.
“We were at a vintage event,” Marsha explains, “which takes place outside every year in September. Everyone gets all dressed up in their vintage clothes, and it’s always a bit nippy. I thought, wouldn’t it be lovely if there was somewhere you could go inside to have a drink, but that was in keeping with the vintage feel? That was how the whole idea came about – being cold!”
With Geoff’s background in vintage cars and Marsha’s love for all things quintessentially British, they started thinking about setting up a mobile bar to take to events that they already loved. They could drive around the country, serving amazing British food and beverages and giving tired festival goers a much-needed pick-me-up. But first they needed to find the right bus.
Fortunately for sparkling wine lovers across the country, Marsha and Geoff caught wind of a 1954 Leyland Royal Tiger going up for sale. Once a fleet bus, she had spent most of its life ferrying people around the streets of Bournemouth. But since being decommissioned, she’d been mouldering in Cornwall. Her new owners, rather than watch her deteriorate in the elements, had decided to sell her on.
The moment Geoff and Marsha saw her, they knew she was ‘the one’. Marsha says, “She’s very rare. We’ve been told she’s one of only six, which surprised me because she’s been a fleet bus for most of her life.”
“It was exciting at first,” Marsha continues. “We thought, ‘If we find the right bus we’ll do it.’ And then we found the bus and put an offer in, and we thought ‘Uh oh, now we’ve got to do it!’ So it was daunting as well.”
Geoff and Marsha moved their beautiful new bus to their home in Surrey, where they undertook extensive renovations to return her to her former glory and make her fizz-friendly. The result is simply astonishing: a beautiful, light-filled bus with booths made out of the original seats and room for plenty of beautiful English bubbly. They named her Tiger Lily, a nod to her model (she’s a Royal Tiger) and Geoff’s grandmother Lillian.
So why did Geoff and Marsha choose to sell English wine from Tiger Lilly? Marsha explains, “English bus, English sparkling wine – it seemed like a perfect match!”
She continues: “We stock wineries from Kent to Cornwall. We visited and did a lot of tastings. It was a big learning curve for us, because neither of us had been in the bar business before.”
But the wine isn’t the only thing that’s Made in England aboard this bubble bus. “We try to keep everything made in the UK,” says Marsha, “from our soft drinks to our cream teas. We paid a lot of attention to little things like that.”
So where can you find Tiger Lily Bus Co? Geoff and Marsha travel the country, attending a huge variety of outdoor events. From music festivals to vintage parties, they’re popping up all over – and that’s just in the month of June!
“We were at Henley last year, and this year we’ll be back again,” says Marsha. “We also do private hire and go to charity events – we’re usually a tea room at those!”
You can out more about where Tiger Lily Bus Co will be on their website – and wherever you find them, be sure to hop on board! This bus’s lovely interior is a perfect way to get out of the sun when your outdoor eating and drinking has gone on just a little too long.
“We’ve put in so much time and passion into getting Tiger Lily set up,” Marsha says, “and we’re blown away by the response we get when people see the bus and come on board. It’s so light and lovely inside, and people are always suggesting events to us. Everyone has been so kind – it’s been so lovely!”
Signature Cocktail: The Tiger Lily
Orange juice, chilled
Sparkling wine, chilled
Fill a flute with half sparkling wine and half orange juice. Add the grenadine gently so that it settles at the bottom, and garnish with orange peel. Enjoy!