UP to 50 new jobs are on the way after a couple ploughed £500,000 into an ambitious project to create a new garden centre.
Hartlepool couple Stuart and Lisa Latimer, both 42, have taken over the site off the A689 that used to be the Whitegate’s garden centre.
The couple, who live in the Bishop Cuthbert area of town, already have 15 staff on board ahead of their weekend opening, and are recruiting for others to work at the 2,000sq ft site.
The centre is now partially-open, with the whole operation expected to be fully up and running by the end of next month.
They have years of experience in horticulture having taken over the regional franchise for the Lawnhopper grass treatment a few years ago and Lisa describes the move into the new premises as “natural progression”.
Lisa said: “We have lots of experience in this field, but this is our biggest project yet and one we are very excited by.
“We want local people to work for us, we thought long and hard about where to open, but in the current climate we feel this will be a boost to Hartlepool.
“We’re looking at having an initial staff of at least 50 and if things go as well as we hope then there could be more opportunity for recruitment.”
Stuart and Lisa have imported plants from Italy and Spain and with the remainder of their stock coming before the weekend they were opening their doors for the first time today.
Lisa added: “This is a huge gamble for us when you consider the money we have pumped into this project, but if we weren’t confident of it being a success then we wouldn’t have done it.
“We set about our plans in September last year, so it has been quite a quick turnaround.
“But we feel this is something the town needs, and we think it will thrive.
“People don’t have a lot of money to go abroad and are spending more and more time at home. People socialise in their homes more now and want to make where they live look nice.
“We can offer everything to cater for people’s budgets, whether it is potted plants or a big landscaping project in their garden.”
The premises will include a tearoom and canopied sheds to display plants, and positions need to be filled in all areas from shop-floor staff to landscaping teams.
Lisa, mum to Tori, 11, and 10-year-old Lauren, added: “We keep hearing how there are lots of people unemployed in Hartlepool, so hopefully something like this will help people back into work.”
The new centre, which began trading yesterday, will be open today until 5pm and then 10am-4pm on Easter Monday.