Rochdale Timber Merchants Succeed Through Challenging Covid Times

A Rochdale business is celebrating its first full year of trading, in which it has seen its staff headcount double, every financial target surpassed and its premises expanded.

Castleton Timber, based on Astra Industrial Centre, supplies timber, fencing and other building materials to the public and trade, and has seen its business grow exponentially despite the challenges of Covid-19.

Founders Chris Walker and Iain Fay, who have worked in the building and construction industry for over 25 years, launched the business just two months prior to the first Covid-19 lockdown.

It has now become a family business with Iain’s son getting involved with the company, Chris’ brother delivering orders to customers, and his cousin and nephew working in the shop. A true family affair!

They now employ nine staff in total, occupies two units on the industrial estate on which it is based, and has two delivery vehicles making deliveries until 9pm six days per week.

The long-term friends invested their own money in the business and were supported by family in setting up their unit in January 2020 before the pandemic hit.  As other suppliers in the area closed under the national lockdown, Chris and Iain took the decision to remain open as an essential retailer, quickly learning what was needed to operate in a Covid-secure way, and business rocketed as a result.

Almost overnight, their customer base expanded beyond all expectations, with customers coming from as far as the Lake District for building supplies.  Supplies were selling out, new lines had to be added, and very quickly, the pair increased their staff headcount to cope with demand.

Chris explains, “It’s hard to explain what we’ve experienced as a new business over the past 12 months.  Back in January last year, I’d given up my job and taken a huge risk to set up on our own.  We were working every hour to get our unit open, grafting into the night with no lights or utilities at our new premises, using the beams from our car headlights to get the unit stocked.  The pandemic hit, which we could never have planned for and we had two options.  Close, and probably lose the business within months, or find out how to open safely and carry on.”

Iain continues, “I was still in my job when we opened for business on the 2nd January, so Chris was holding the fort.  I came over to spend some time in the unit in March when the pandemic had hit and everywhere else was closed. The unit was as busy as a supermarket – it looked like we’d been looted. I left my job and have been here ever since!”