The three senior managers at a family-run, independent garden centre in Somerset have been given new roles in the award-winning business this month (June, 2014).
General manager, Norma Moore, plant manager, Andrew Pitman and shop manager, Steve Searle now form a new management team at Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre near Taunton.
Managing director, Mike Lind explained: “There are lots of positive developments taking place here at the moment including work starting on our new, state-of-the-art restaurant and our plant manager, Andrew Pitman and shop manager, Steve Searle are taking on the joint roles of duty manager for the garden centre and overseeing the running of the whole site.
“But don’t worry Norma hasn’t gone far, she will be looking after our new restaurant, as it represents a significant part of our business moving forward. She’s coordinating everything from the build, which starts this month, to the suppliers to the staffing and is supporting our highly experienced restaurant manager, Sally Sparks, in her role. So in order for her to be able to take on this role she has handed over the reins of running the business to Andrew and Steve, who have been here pretty much from the start 32 years ago.”
Norma joined the company more than 13 years ago after working for numerous national garden centres and retailers including Blooms, Redfields Garden Centre and B&Q. She has vast experience in setting up new areas in the business having launched the garden centre’s Craft Centre successfully in 2008.
Norma said: “I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into this new role. It’s a tremendously exciting time for us all.
“As a family-orientated garden centre, we understand how important it is to serve our visitors and their families with the food and refreshments they would like, in an environment to match.
“The next chapter in our story together is our new restaurant, which will open next year. It will seat 350 people and our chefs will prepare food for diners in our new kitchens.
“It represents a wonderful addition to the eateries in Somerset, as we will be able to offer lunch at any time of the day, times when people want it and not just serve it between 12noon and 2pm. The menu and options will also be very interesting, so it promises to be a really different project to work on and when we’re done we’ll be offering our customers some of the best catering in the county.”
Andrew is a stalwart of the business having been an employee for more than 27 years. He studied at Cannington College of Agriculture and Horticulture and gained a National Certificate in Horticulture and also an Advanced National Certificate in Horticulture. During his time at college, he worked at the garden centre for work experience.
After leaving college he continued working at Monkton Elm and worked his way up the management ladder. Andrew has scooped numerous awards for the garden centre through various displays at Taunton Flower Show over the years.
Andrew explained: “In the next few years I think there will be a big divide between real garden centres that will focus on gardening and take the market share, and others that will diversify and forget they are a garden centre. Many will become more like supermarkets that sell plants. I am very passionate about plants and believe these are the core of any good garden centre. This is where we got our reputation from and they will remain at the heart of the business for the foreseeable future.”
The company’s longest serving team member is Shop Manager, Steve Searle, who has been with the company for nearly 32 years. He started as a weekend member of staff at the age of 15 and has a silver medal from the DIY Week Store Manager of the Year awards.
Steve said: “When I left school I went to college on a day release course and a Youth Training Scheme before starting at the garden centre full-time. As the business grew, I grew with it and it’s been a fantastic experience. I am now looking forward to this new era.
“Since we first opened our doors we’ve been on an incredible journey together, developing and re-developing the garden centre to meet our customers’ needs.
“Now we’re investing further in the future of the business. We’re committed to the community, local jobs and offering an excellent customer experience.”
Mike, who took over as Managing Director two years ago is the son-in-law of the founders David and Luella Bellman. The Bellmans, who are now retired, and their three children still play an active part in the garden centre’s development.
Mike said: “David and Luella first started offering visitors refreshments in 1989. Their aim was to have a real emphasis on fresh, locally produced food cooked daily on-site and the same will apply with our new restaurant once launched.
“There is much to look forward to but as we embark on our new restaurant development, we do anticipate some disruption and we apologise for this. However, we are creating a vibrant new space for our customers to enjoy when they visit in the future and it’s something we think the short-term upheaval will more than make up for.
“In the meantime, our current restaurant space will still be operational, albeit with a reduced number of tables, for teas, coffees, cakes, snacks, breakfasts and lunches, and our wonderful Pondside Café will also be open too for everything apart from breakfasts and the larger lunches.
“I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Norma, Andrew and Steve on their new roles with the business and wish them well.”
To find out more, please visit Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre, which is located just off the A38 at Monkton Heathfield between Bridgwater and Taunton.
Alternatively, please call 01823 412 381, visit www.monktonelmgardencentre.co.uk, log on to www.facebook.com/Monktonelm or follow the company on Twitter by visiting www.twitter.com/Monktonelm.