Pledge to invest in Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre as Milton Keynes businessman strikes rescue deal

Garden Centre manager Richard Quint, Ken and SeSe Chen, assistant manager Sophie Cootes, caf� manager Kirsty Hobbs and outdoor manager Mark Rolfe
Garden Centre manager Richard Quint, Ken and SeSe Chen, assistant manager Sophie Cootes, caf� manager Kirsty Hobbs and outdoor manager Mark Rolfe

Leighton Buzzard’s popular Garden Centre has been rescued by a local businessman who is also planning further investment to “improve the experience of customers” and ensure the Hockliffe Road facility remains a focal point for the local community.

Just a month after operators, the Home & Garden Group, called in administrators, Milton Keynes businessman Ken Chen agreed terms with site owners Martin and Stuart Hammond for the remaining 13-year lease and took over the management of the centre with immediate effect.

Ken Chen - new owner of Leighton Buzzard Garden  Centre

Ken Chen - new owner of Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre

“We are delighted at being given the chance of making Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre the location of choice for horticulturists and gardening enthusiasts and to have retained the experienced in-house staff for the challenge ahead,” said Mr Chen.

Mr Chen launched the Newbridge Premium Pots business in 2009.

It is now one of the largest suppliers of glazed terracotta pots in all colours, shapes and sizes to garden centres and other retail outlets in England and Wales.

Mr Chen, a 38-year-old father of two young daughters and who will be spearheading the Leighton Buzzard venture with wife SeSe, added: “There is a natural synergy between our existing pot-supply business we have successfully developed and garden centres, which we have supplied for many years.

Garden Centre manager Richard Quint, Ken and SeSe Chen, assistant manager Sophie Cootes, caf� manager Kirsty Hobbs

Garden Centre manager Richard Quint, Ken and SeSe Chen, assistant manager Sophie Cootes, caf� manager Kirsty Hobbs

“We believe the Leighton Garden Centre can be developed into a premier facility, which, during our stewardship, will focus on quality and value.

“We are in this for the long term and will be drawing up plans to improve the facilities whilst maintaining all the services provided by a traditional garden centre.”

Based at Bradwell Abbey in Milton Keynes, Chinese-speaking Mr Chen, who was brought up in Ireland, has other business interests, including a dealership in prestige motor vehicles.

Site owners Martin and Stuart Hammond acquired the near-derelict three-acre site in 1994, developing a successful garden centre before deciding to retire two years ago.

Site owners Martin and Stuart Hammond at the garden centre which will now be run by Ken Chen

Site owners Martin and Stuart Hammond at the garden centre which will now be run by Ken Chen

The garden centre facility on the Hockliffe Road site was leased to the Home and Garden Group, which also ran Willington Garden Centre near Bedford.

But after trading there for almost two years, the company, based at Upper Caldecote, near Biggleswade went into administration at the end of March.

Administrators Mazars LLP have since been seeking purchasers of the Leighton operation as a “going concern.”

Commenting on the latest development, Martin Hammond said: “We are delighted that Mr Chen has taken over the business and that it will remain such an important facility for the Leighton community.

“We have been very impressed by his knowledge, his enthusiasm and his commitment, both to existing staff and for the short and long term development of the business.”

Nine other businesses occupying rented facilities on the multi-use retail site include an acquatics centre, beauticians, dog groomers, a pet shop, car wash, crafts centre, hot tub and ;pool suppliers and installers, a conservatory company and a children’s nursery, jointly employing more than 40 people.