Steve Aldridge has always had a fascination with machines and anything mechanical. Having spent 22 years as a Royal Engineer in the army, run a clock repairing business in Thirsk, and taught building maintenance and motorcycle engineering to inmates for HM Prison Service, Steve finally gave in to his desires and now owns Plymouth Garden Machinery, a Plympton-based family business committed to providing a great service to its customers every day.
Steve initially acquired ‘PS Garden Machinery’ from its founder, Peter Sherrell, who had been running the business for more than 20 years from premises at Leyford Parks in Staddiscombe, soon changing the name to ‘Plymstock Garden Machinery’– an easy enough transition!
Steve worked alongside Peter for a period of time and officially took over in late 2012. The business had a loyal clientele for machinery servicing and repairs but Steve saw the opportunity for growth, “The unit was in a rural location near Staddiscombe, and although it had a loyal customer base, the business was not selling any machinery to speak of”. Steve saw the opportunity, and quickly branched out into sales, securing a local dealership agreement with Global Garden Products (GGP), the European leader in the production and distribution of lawnmowers and powered garden equipment who just happen to have their HQ in Plympton! Through its brands, GGP stands for high-quality and cutting-edge innovation and technology, with over 90 years of expertise in the field. As a result, Steve was able to stock products from renowned brands Mountfield and Stiga. This was a great start and subsequently further dealership agreements have been secured with Maruyama, Webb, Flymo and most recently Husqvarna, the latter of which enables the business to offer safety equipment and workwear too. The business also now supplies environmentally-friendly Aspen fuels as well as Henchman’s safe and versatile tripod ladders and platforms.
However, running a business isn’t always easy! One particularly cold and damp winter the roof blew off the Staddiscombe property during high winds, causing all manner of problems for the business. Then, in 2014, the business suffered the first of two break ins, the thieves cutting the steel doors off the front of the property, as well as breaking the lock but only taking a few machines and tools. The second break in just before Christmas 2015 was, unfortunately, much more serious. This time the thieves stole almost everything, even the CCTV system! Fortunately, the business was able to survive but the thefts inspired Steve to move the business to a more secure setting.
With increased machinery sales, the business had insufficient space at the Leyford Parks premises anyway and in the Spring of 2016, through Wendy’s commercial property experience, Steve found a larger and more suitable unit in Plympton, located at 62 Valley Road Business Park. In recognition of the move from PL9 to PL7, the growth of the business and his aspirations for the future, the business was then re-named to the now more appropriate ‘Plymouth Garden Machinery’. Wendy says “The move has delivered several benefits, including an increase in passing trade and more comfortable working conditions for Steve and Tris, but also the problem that some longstanding clients who visit maybe only once a year didn’t realise they had moved!”
We’re big enough to cope, but small enough to care!
Originally, Steve ran the business by himself, but he was soon joined in 2013 by his son Tristan, a former law student from Yorkshire. Learning engineering skills quickly from Steve, Tristan particularly enjoys the sales side of the business and provides a friendly-face and a helping hand for new and regular clients alike.
More recently, Steve’s partner Wendy, who has a background in finance and business administration, retired from her finance firm and sold half of her other business, ‘Adams&Co’, a business transfer agency based in Elburton, to free up time to help Steve manage the growing business, lending her expertise and commercial knowledge to help the company reach new heights.
As a business, Plymouth Garden Machinery seeks to differentiate itself from competitors by focusing upon the needs and interests of each and every customer. Steve says they endeavour to cater for every gardening machinery requirement, from the repair of the smallest strimmer for domestic users, to servicing and maintenance of ride-on mowers and commercial equipment for country estates, tree surgeons and landscapers.
From blade sharpening, repairs to cut cables and broken switches, to major equipment overhauls, Steve says “Everyone’s welcome, and there’s no job too small! We appreciate business from all clients”. Plymouth Garden Machinery offers free advice regarding the most appropriate machine to suit each garden, and guidance including demonstrations for clients enabling them to make the most of the equipment, safely and efficiently, even disposing of the packaging! If you are unable to find a particular product or brand on their website, Steve will endeavour to obtain it for you.
A properly set up machine will give you the best result, save you time, and will have a longer life!
Plymouth Garden Machinery doesn’t always seek to compete head on with internet operators but to provide ‘best overall value’, because the service Steve and Tris provide cannot compare: “If customers buy online, the machine arrives in a box, they then have to put it together, and if there is a problem they’ve got to send it back. Our price includes assembly, testing the product to ensure it’s in working order, delivery and where required a demonstration of how to use it safely and how to maintain it!”
The future of the business is looking bright, with further plans to expand the selection of products available, alongside increasing the showroom space, and potentially even hiring more staff! Steve states: “We’re hoping to expand; we may look into hiring another engineer and possibly a delivery driver.” Plymouth Garden Machinery offers a free local collection and delivery service: “We go as far East as Slapton, as far west as Helston in Cornwall, and the furthest we’ve gone south is Portugal!” Fortunately, their payment options include American Express, perfect for any gardeners who love to travel!