'Mr Long Sutton' is leaving town
His family name has been a cornerstone of Long Sutton and Sutton Bridge for many decades.
But a road to Damascus moment led to Sean Portass putting his £7m portfolio of properties on the market and seek a new, less hectic challenge in a neighbouring county.
It was during a month spent in hospital this year – after being rushed in with a large blood clot between his heart and lungs - that he quickly reflected upon what’s important to him.
“I’m 50 next year and I’ve got all these properties,” said Sean. “I’m quite proud of what I’ve done over the years but I thought ‘what a waste if I don’t get to enjoy it’. So, very soon after coming out of hospital, I put everything I’ve got on the market. I’m selling it all to try to find a better work/life balance.”
The lifestyle he has mapped out now involves establishing a small Ronnie Scott-style jazz club in Norwich, run by Sean and wife Dana and open Wednesday to Sunday, giving him days off he doesn’t currently experience too often.
It was while he was on a digger that Sean felt the first dizzy and breathless spell which highlighted his health scare. But he has no intention of downing tools just yet and has pledged to finish redeveloping The Red Lion in Holbeach into a nine-bedroom boutique hotel, restaurant and bar and seeing the completion of other smaller projects like the transformation of the butcher’s shop next to The Granary.
Sean has no regrets about any of his projects but admits that The Red Lion could test that record.
“It’s been a money pit – so expensive,” he mused. “But the windows went in last week and the roof will go on shortly and I’m expecting it to be open next summer.
“I’m fully confident it will be a great success. Long Sutton has 9,000 people and several pubs doing well. Holbeach has 30,000 people and one or two pubs so it should be a roaring success. If it isn’t, then that will be my first regret.”
Of course, it’s nigh on impossible to make major changes within such a small area without ruffling a few feathers along the way and Sean acknowledges that not everyone will be sorry to see him go.
However, the couple have been inundated by well-wishers and Long Sutton and District Civic Society wrote to Sean to thank him for his contribution to the town and say that he would be “sorely missed”.
“I guess it does show that some people appreciate your efforts,” reflected Sean, who says he dodged a bullet 14 years ago when he could not agree a price for the dilapidated Bull Hotel in Long Sutton’s Market Place. His valuation of £72,000 was £2,000 short of the lowest the vendor would go.
The Portass name will live on in The Suttons. Dad Nigel’s music shop has long been an asset to Sutton Bridge.
And Sean – drummer in the five-piece band Redemption with his dad - will leave his stamp on Long Sutton with indisputably fine enhancements to The Ship, The Granary and Palmer’s Ale House.
Ten of his 30 properties - all within a five-mile radius of Long Sutton – have already been sold.
However, as soon as the right opportunity comes along in Norfolk’s “capital” he and Dana will be gone, although not without a degree of reluctance.
“People have often gone to me ‘why did you spend all your money here?’ Sean said. “For me, Long Sutton is the best town for absolutely miles around here.”
More by this authorNigel Chapman