A family-run garden centre which sits at the gateway to the North York Moors National Park, is getting ready for a period of new growth with the construction of a major extension, supported by Yorkshire Bank.
The Steam and Moorland Garden and Machinery Centre in Pickering, established in 2001 by husband and wife Charles and Bernadette Hopkinson, is building a new 7,200 square foot extension which will be home to a new café, retail space and visitor toilets.
Yorkshire Bank has provided a £450,000 loan to help build the new extension, which is expected to be open in time for Easter. In total the new extension is costing around £650,000 to build, with the owners investing around £200,000 of their own funds to the project.
The funding was arranged by Pete Sumners, business development manager at Yorkshire Bank’s Business and Private Banking Centre in York.
The garden centre was opened in 2001 after the Hopkinson family diversified from their farming activities. When it first opened it was as a garden centre only, but soon branched out into the sale and servicing of garden machinery such as chainsaws and sit-on lawn mowers. The retail side of the business, including café, currently makes up around 60 per cent of all sales, with the machinery arm making up 40 per cent.
At present the centre consists of two separate buildings over 23,000 square feet – an existing retail area and small café, and the machinery sales and servicing area. The new extension will join the two existing units to create a 30,000 square feet space.
One of the driving factors behind the decision to invest in the centre was the growth in visitors in recent years from local customers and tourists, particularly coach tours, because of the centre’s position on the route to the North York Moors National Park.
The Steam and Moorland Centre has always sold a wide selection of indoor and outdoor toys and games, and has a children’s play area with trampolines and a big slide. Parents can sip coffee on the new balcony whilst watching their children at play.
Charles Hopkinson said the development of the new extension should pave the way for more visitors all-year round.
He said: “Since we opened Steam and Moorland 15 years ago, we’ve enjoyed tremendous support from our customers – both locals and the passing tourist trade. We are seeing increasing numbers of people coming through our doors and we felt now was the right time to invest to help deliver an even better experience.
“During the summer months we can be very busy, particularly with coach parties. On several occasions we have had to turn groups away but when we open this new extension we will be able to cater for larger numbers.
“We spent a lot of time looking around and speaking to a large number of local banks who could help us. We felt Yorkshire Bank was the perfect fit for us. The team has worked hard to really understand our business and provided us with the right support quickly.”
The centre currently has a 40-cover café. With the new development this will increase to 150 covers.
Steam and Moorland employs around 25 staff from the local area – a mixture of full and part-time – but is expecting to create a further 10 jobs when the new café and retail area is up and running. Charles’ mother Ann still works in the retail area from time to time. Although the business experiences seasonal peaks, all staff are employed throughout the year and with the increase in catering and retail space, Charles and Bernadette are expecting sales to increase during seasons which, historically, would not have been as busy.
Charles continued: “There is no real secret to why the business has done so well. We look to employ and source locally and also provide a local service and have the right products in stock all year round. It is a competitive marketplace, particularly against the larger brand stores who might have better buying power. However, I think customers like to know they are buying from a local family business.”
Pete Sumners, business development manager at Yorkshire Bank, praised the Hopkinsons and their staff.
He said: “Charles and Bernadette have built a strong local business which enjoys a loyal customer base. They provide quality products and services and their location in such a popular part of Yorkshire really works to their advantage. This new development will allow them to increase their retail offering as well as provide a welcoming catering facility which should prove popular all year round, creating local jobs in the process.
“Yorkshire Bank is proud to support Charles and Bernadette in this stage of the business’ growth, and we are looking forward to working with them as they realise their ambitions for Steam and Moorland. As the economy continues to improve, we are committed to supporting strong businesses with intentions for growth.”
Yorkshire Bank recently launched a series of lending initiatives for UK businesses, designed to encourage growth for new and existing customers. As well as capital-free periods for up to five years, the Bank has also introduced high percentage funding for businesses to purchase or invest in trading premises.
James Bradley of Langleys acted on behalf of both Clydesdale Bank & Hopkinson & Sons on the loan facility.
James said: “Hopkinson & Sons is a family owned, strong Yorkshire business and we’re pleased to have supported the company in the expansion of its premises in Pickering.”