4 Norfolk fathers and sons with family businesses
- Credit: Ian Burt
June is the month to celebrate Father’s Day and Norfolk is home to some great family businesses, so Judith Palmer spoke to four father and son teams to find out what working so closely with your family is really like
Yare Valley Oils
Tim and William Mack
With a century of history behind it, Yare Valley Oils of Surlingham, takes great pride in being a Norfolk family business. It makes full use of the local landscape, growing potatoes, wheat, barley, maize, parsley and grass on the marshes, as well as expanding more recently to produce its own rapeseed oil and opening a farmshop and timeshare swimming pool. Despite Tim’s desire to keep it in the family son William said he never felt pressured into coming back after studying away at university.
“During my time away, I worked on farms during holidays and realised my love of farming” said William. He divulged that there were downsides to working so closely with your father, but also admitted that “learning from his experiences and bouncing new ideas off him” is a real perk of the job.
“We know each other really well,” said Tim. “So we can guess reactions to certain situations and we are very good at talking and discussing everything through.” But the best bit of advice passed from father to son? “Don’t be afraid to make a decision,” said William. “The most important thing about a decision is making one.” Sound advice that they are hoping to put to good use as they plan to build and grow their business for the future generations to come.
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Peter, Ben and Jack Jay
As a family they currently own four major attractions in Great Yarmouth, including the Hippodrome Circus (famous as Britian’s only surviving total circus building) and the Windmill Theatre Adventure Golf, both dating back to the early 1900s. Peter Jay’s grandfather Ben started with the Windmill in 1947 and Ben’s son Jack added the Hippodrome in 1979. The business continues to be a close family affair today with Peter’s sons, Jack and Ben junior, involved with producing, directing and performing as well as front of house and lighting at the Hippodrome. Eldest son Ben’s partner Estelle Clifton is also in on the act, producing all the choreography for the Hippodrome shows as well as running a dance school based at the venue. Mum Christine works with husband Peter to book all the circus acts and organise the paperwork.
Four generations in, Peter said they have always been a family business and each generation brings something new. “The youngsters bring fresh ideas and new thinking which is vital in the entertainment business,” he said.
The benefits of this can clearly be seen as the shows continue to bring more people to visit the seafront town every year.
“Obviously experience of the past can help shape the future, and avoid the many pitfalls that can affect the business,” said Peter, as he discussed how their industry must move with the times without losing sight of its roots.
Family is obviously very close to Peter’s heart as he declares how “working together as a family is one of the best things you can wish for in life.” As they prepare to totally revamp the 1911 Empire Cinema and 1897 Hollywood Cinema Complex it seems family will be involved all the way. Peter said working so closely together is “never easy but incredibly fulfilling for everyone involved”.
Richard and Jonathan Hadley
Having started from their own home kitchen in 1987, supplying local butchers and cafes with meat pies from old family recipes, the demand for Richard and Julie Hadley’s goods soon outgrew their house. It was clearly time to take the next step and over the last 20 years Pastry Cutters has developed into a thriving business, supplying shops all over the county with pastries and cakes as well as their traditional meat pies.
“The very foundations of the company are based on old family recipes” said Richard. “So it’s exciting to keep the business a family-orientated affair.” Son Jonathan was born just a year after Pastry Cutters was established so he has grown up surrounded by his parents’ work. “The great thing about being the younger generation is that it brings a new set of eyes to the equation,” said Jonathan. “It allowed me to see how things work and how things can be improved to lead to a greater success.” But the older generation still have lots to offer, he continued. “Over time ideas have been tried and tested, from new products to new methods, so that knowledge is vital”
“Luckily for us we like to think we make a good team too, being best friends definitely helps, as we look to expand the business and keep customers happy with a full belly of local produce.”
Peter and Wesley Stokes
Less of a family business and more of a Norfolk institution, Cromer Lifeboat crew currently has a father and son team among its numbers who relish the chance to test themselves in a new environment. Peter Stokes moved with his family from Northamptonshire to Cromer in 2007. After completing 21 years with the retained fire and rescue service, he was after a new challenge.
“I remember thinking to myself, a fire engine on the water – now that seems interesting.” His son Wesley joined the crew after settling his family in the town, and admitted he’d never thought about it before “until I saw Dad on the boat and then I thought – I could do that better than him!”
Peter himself admitted that although he and Wesley are very close he is a bit old-fashioned when it comes to being on the boat together. “I don’t really like it when he calls me Dad in front of the other crew. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m very proud to be his father but on the boat we have a job to do and we don’t need added distractions”. However working together so closely means they have developed their own form of communication. “If Wes wants my attention he calls me OI!” explained Peter. “I don’t have to tell him anything most of the time, as he knows what I’m thinking… which in today’s world when we have to be so accurate that’s a fantastic asset.”
Wesley and his father clearly have a great bond, as they joked about what the younger generation have to offer the crew. “I feel they bring enthusiasm, wit and humour,” said Wesley. “They bring a level of fitness that I no longer have, bad ideas and bad jokes” laughed Peter, but he continued with a real sense of fatherly pride as they discussed how long they will crew together. “We will have to see, as only time will tell, but I’m very proud of my son and proud to be a member of the RNLI”.