21 Jul 2020

Garden machinery dealership founder dies

The founder of a garden machinery dealership and BAGMA member has died suddenly aged 85.

Ron Smith, the founder of the garden machinery dealership that carries his name, died suddenly at home on June 26. He leaves two children, Mark and Dawn and four grandchildren.

Mark, who now runs the business said: “It came as a complete shock. Dad passed away suddenly in the evening, having come to the business a few hours earlier to look at recently installed racking and to discuss overall business – and was looking forward to another visit soon."

Having initially worked for farm machinery dealer, J C Baker in Worcester for several years, Ron decided to set up on his own in 1967, buying a Morris Minor van with a logo designed and painted by his late wife, Gina.

His initial franchises included Westwood where he was greatly helped by Peter Burnham and Homelite, then run by Peter Baker who later joined STIHL as managing director. He sold his first ride-on in 1972, the ubiquitous Westwood Lawn Bug for £182.

As the business grew, he invested in a Volkswagen pick- up truck to collect and deliver machines and repairs, again Gina provided the sign-writing and this time the van boasted a miniature lawnmower on the cab roof to promote his business.

In the 1980s, as the business grew, he purchased adjacent land in Worcester and opened a new showroom. He further expanded the business by opening a second branch in Hereford, and Mark joined the business in the early 1990s having been ever-present from an early age at demonstrations and shows as part of the family firm.

Over the years, Ron took every opportunity to showcase his company to the public at shows, open days and local events, being ever-present at the Three Counties and Malvern shows. In recent years, Mark has championed the use of online sales, using a selling medium that was never available to Ron in the formative days.

Expansion continues with the opening of a new showroom in Hereford in 2016 with an enlarged and centralised showroom, workshop and storage in Worcester planned for development.

Mark says he will miss the constant input and advice from Ron over the years. “Even in his retirement, he took an active interest in the business right up to the end. He was the ultimate self-made businessman, a constant in the fabric of business life in Worcester – and highly regarded and respected in the garden machinery industry by suppliers and fellow dealers over many years."

A private funeral was held on July 17 in Worcester, and a memorial service is being planned for next year.

Article by Chris Biddle