One of the North of England’s leading garden centres, with operations in Todmorden and Rochdale, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this month.
Gordon Rigg Garden Centres currently employs a 190 strong team across its two garden centres, their adjoining restaurants as well as The Bottoms Mill Shop & Cotton Weavers Café in Walsden, Todmorden.
Last year the company’s turnover hit £10million.
The business was founded by the late Gordon Rigg when he was just 26 years old. He had worked for several vegetable and floristry firms in Halifax and in August 1945, the opportunity arose to take over a quarter acre smallholding close to his home in Walsden.
However he had to raise £150, which was a fortune to Gordon in those days, to pay for two greenhouses and several cabins and sheds that occupied the site. Gordon persuaded former employer Willie Shoesmith, who ran J W Shoesmiths Market Gardeners in Halifax, to lend him the money despite being sacked by the company a few weeks earlier for Trade Union activity!
Gordon grew and sold plants on the site and would cycle round the area selling them door to door. He then opened a stall in Todmorden market which quickly grew into the town’s busiest greengrocers and florists.
In 1965 Gordon acquired five acres of land next to the smallholding and gradually developed the site into more than 60,000 square feet of retail space selling everything from indoor and outdoor plants through to garden tools, pet care products, floristry and gifts.
The company acquired its second garden centre in 1988 on Rochdale’s Kingsway and opened Bottoms Mill Shop & Cotton Weavers Café in Walsden in 2002. Gordon passed away in 2004. The company is now owned and managed by Gordon’s son Peter Rigg, his wife Pauline and their children Anthony and Fiona. It was recently voted the North of England’s best garden centre by Which? Magazine.
Peter said: “After 70 years it’s fantastic that Gordon Rigg continues to thrive as a business and we are still very much a family run firm that is built on the same values that formed the company’s foundations back in 1945.
“The industry has changed hugely over the years with the introduction of modern packaging making plant buying much easier and more convenient. The demise of garden greenhouses also means customers generally prefer to buy fully grown plants, complete with flowers, rather than nurturing and growing plants themselves.
“However, our Walsden site still operates an extensive traditional nursery, where we grow tens of thousands of plants every year, which sets us apart from many of our competitors and means we can cater for all requirements.”
Peter added: “Today customers come from all over the North of England and keen gardeners will travel from across the UK to visit us.
“People are continually surprised by our vast product range and the size of our garden centres. This is particularly true at Walsden which covers a huge floorplan and often people can spend up to half a day with us shopping and enjoying lunch in our café.
“The catering side of the business is continually growing and this was enhanced greatly when we opened a highly successful bistro at our Rochdale centre. Another area where we are currently investing heavily is in our online presence.
“We’ve recently launched our fully redeveloped mobile friendly e-commerce site that we’re continually developing and this has the potential to become another big growth area for us over the next couple of years which is hugely exciting.”