Having survived more than a century of national economic ups and downs a Bath-based high-end joinery firm was not going to let the current lockdown put it out of business.
In fact, Hawker Joinery’s workshop is again running at full pelt and the company – with an office based on one of the city’s two surviving sedan chairmens’ huts – has announced a recruitment campaign to enlist more staff.
Back in March, Mitchell Thomas, the owner and Managing Director of the company agreed with his fellow business owner Dan Rodd that with the safety of the staff and their families being their top priority the only option was to inform the loyal Hawkers team of 20 that the workshop would be closed with immediate effect.
The day after Mitchell and Dan closed down all the machinery and secured the premises not knowing when they would be back. As they pulled the giant roller doors down and looked across a deserted, normally vibrant industrial estate, a feeling of foreboding came over them that maybe their Company, which had survived the effects of two world wars, the great depression and many economic challenging times may not be able to survive this one. A sentiment – it became apparent – that was being felt by many fellow small and medium enterprises the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.
What followed was a roller coaster of emotions as the daily news of deaths alongside increased virus spread became ever-present. There were numerous times that the pair felt the hoped-for light at the end of the tunnel looked ever remote.
Today, as the Government has released elements of the lockdown with a truly manic couple of weeks, Hawkers has risen like the proverbial phoenix and is back up and running with all available staff in the workshop and machines running at full pelt to meet demand.
Mitchell has been taken back by the support of many parties, he is extremely grateful for the Government’s support and mostly for the ‘Furlough’ scheme that was so vital to keeping the experienced team together and amazed by the willingness of suppliers large and small to be patient for payments whilst continuing to supply.
Most of all though, in the last couple of weeks he has been totally blown away by customers who have placed orders.
Mitchell feels ‘there is an enhanced genuine desire, on the part of people in the West Country, to support independent companies like Hawker Joinery to make sure they survive – it is so heartening to have people making sincere enquiries about how we are doing and offering to pay upfront to assist and do their bit to make sure we get through.’
Dan, who mainly deals with all matters production, said: ‘the feeling of good-will flows with the team who are all delighted to be back at work, on full salary playing their part in getting the business going again, offering to forego holidays and really putting their back into it. The positivity is palpable and such a contrast to the dark days of April when I feared the worst on so many fronts.’
Today both Mitchell and Dan feel that the future is looking brighter. So much so, they have announced a recruitment campaign to enlist more skilled joiners – both young and old – on either part or full time.