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The business of Blake & Bull

Last year I wrote a little about the business of Blake & Bull in the face of economic uncertainty pre winter. I thought you might like a little update nearly 8 months on. If you’ve followed Blake & Bull for a long time, and many have!, this may be interesting. If not then welcome to the club and sorry if this is boring! 

Firstly business is good! There are reports of slow downs in the economy but it doesn’t feel that way for us, or indeed for other businesses in my network. Supply bottlenecks have eased, transport costs have come down and things just feel a bit more normal - long may it continue!

Overall costs are rising still, we plan a price increase of our conversion, re-enamelling and cooker sales at the end of July, but we’ve been investing to offset this!

This is the new water harvesting system at HQ. It saves the water from the roof of our 9000ftsq warehouse building. We’ll use tap water only for drinking from now on. Hoses, toilets and everything else will run on filtered rainwater from these tanks!

Aga workshop

A second building, of similar size, houses our offices and showroom and it will soon be joined by a third. The new floor was being poured yesterday, see pic above! This warm and efficient brand new building will house our preparation workshops and stock for all our work on site. Enamel for cookers, electric parts for conversions and much much more!

This investment is key for cost pressures. More space = more stock. More stock = lower prices as we buy in bulk. It’s one way to reduce some of the cost increases we need to pass on over the coming years. 

We are bringing more of what we do ‘in house’ for the same reason. We’ve invested in an enormous ‘shot blast’ machine that allows us to remove old enamel from the original castings we use. Cast iron is a fabulous material. Unless dropped in the sea it lasts hundreds of years. With our new machine we can rescue more parts from old cookers we remove and cut costs by removing the enamel from parts we will subsequently re-enamel for customers whether to re-enamel an existing cooker or install one from scratch. A great new capability!

We are still growing the team too. We’ll shortly have 8 ‘lead’ engineers out and about installing, converting and re-enamelling cookers. We have a removals team too and support engineers. In the office we’ve grown both the sales team and our operations team too. If you have a conversion or other service and one of our lead engineers walks through your door then know that they have been supported by a super professional team! 

  1. When you call or email our customer happiness team, Sue and Beth, make sure you reach the right person.
  2. Your initial enquiry and getting a quote will have been dealt with by Alex, Emma and Emily. Katy (on site boss!) and myself help out too when its busy!
  3. Once booked in our ‘ops’ department take over. This is Chris, Matthew and Charlotte.
  4. Whatever the job is the workshop will have prepared it for the engineer who visits you. This is Dan 1, Dan 2, Mathew and Neil.
  5. Huge amounts of goods and materials come and go every day, our logistics team can get any part, anywhere in the UK, tomorrow. We ship entire cookers all over the world regularly! This is Ian, Ed, Erica and Peter.

Our lead engineers are rock stars - super professional and skilled - but without all the people above nothing would happen. It’s this team that has built our reputation on service and quality.

A bigger team means a better service. More brains working on a problem and more flexibility when problems arise. Yesterday we sent Mathew from the workshop on a cross country mission to grab a plinth after the wrong one had been ordered. His journey prevented the delay of a cooker installation for a customer.

Outwardly serene Blake & Bull nevertheless paddles furiously below the surface - swan like!

One of our restored and renewed electric Aga range cookers installed involves

  • 101 parts replaced
  • 8 parts restored
  • 17 parts re-enamelled
  • 30 hours work 
  • By 8 people 
  • In 3 buildings
  • 1 lead engineer
  • 28 painstaking checks once it is hand built in your kitchen. 

It’s a lot of work but we love doing it and continue to invest for the long term. We think in generations, not financial quarters! 

Aga showroom

Matthew Bates

Matthew Bates

Matthew is from a farming family near Bath and a graduate of King's College London who decided not to follow the 'standard' path into banking or the law. He has been working with these fabulous cookers in some form or another since 2003. Matthew runs Blake and Bull from beautiful Bradford on Avon, near Bath. Alf the golden retriever makes sure the working day finishes at 6pm sharp - dog walk time!