“I went out to buy a kitchen, and came back with a paper tissue business”, said Charles Hadcock.
Roach Bridge Tissues has been trading in Preston since 1875, producing fine packing tissues for luxury items including food, footwear, clothes and accessories.
This Christmas staff have seen a massive uplift in orders, as goods manufacturers look to fulfil the festive demand.
The company had been based at Roach Bridge Mill, Samlesbury, and owned by the family of Charles’ wife Camilla until 1982, when her grandfather died, and the company had to be sold because of death duties.
Charles said: “A few years ago I’d heard that the consortium had put it up for sale, and I went to have a look.
“I ended up deciding to buy the business and coming back to tell my wife, which was a bit of a surprise for her.”
As Charles had bought the business and not the building, he moved the printing operation to a building in Ribbleton Lane, Preston, where it ran for five years. Then, in 2005, the sculptor and his family snapped up the chance to buy back Roach Bridge Mill, and reunite the two elements of the business.
Now, with only 12 employees compared to 150 in its industrial heyday, the mill is very much a smaller operation, but huge in terms of national and international reputation.
Charles said: “We produce very fine and light grammage tissue paper. We pride ourselves on being the most precise manufacturer – our product is crisp and well-printed, and our quality is the best in the country.”
He added: “If you buy any high-end, luxury item from any shop in the UK, or online, then invariably, it will be wrapped in tissue paper we have printed. The clients are huge names, and they wouldn’t like to be named, but I get take immense pleasure walking down the Kings Road in London and counting 20 shops in the first 100 yards that we supply.”
More locally, Charles can divulge that he prints paper for Barton Grange garden centre and Booths supermarkets.
Charles said the state of his order books reflects the state of the wider economy.
He said: “Our business is a good barometer of what’s going on, and this year has been the toughest in a while.
“Before October we didn’t have a lot on, but then all of a sudden one Monday morning, the phones wouldn’t stop ringing with people placing orders for the run up to Christmas.
“Ordering patterns have changed, and a lot of people we supply work on a ‘just in time basis’, so we have to be able to respond very quickly.
“The difference was like flicking a switch, but we’ve all been working very hard and putting a bit of overtime in to cope. We are a successful little company. We don’t make millions, but we make an honest profit in a sustainable way.”
Sustainability is also key to the energy supply for Roach Bridge Mill, which comes from hydro-electric power derived from a weir on the adjacent to River Darwen, refurbished by Charles himself.”
He added: “We’re a very green company, and always have been. All the paper we use is 100 per cent recycled, we don’t use all the harsh chemicals other paper producers do, and all our inks are water-based. You might pay a little more for these products, but they are the best.
“The company has clear ambitions for the future, and currently we’re developing an idea with the Design Council for a bespoke, off-the-shelf range of wrapping tissue paper.”