As Blackpool-based distributor CKS reaches its 40th anniversary in business, the firm has looked back to its roots to celebrate this milestone.
Back in 1949 Hugh Chatterton, who would go on to found the firm, started working for Bill Wheeler, a local fish and chip equipment manufacturer. Chatterton began as a showroom assistant, and then went on to become an apprentice sheet-metal worker. He worked through his apprenticeship before taking a 2 year break for National Service, returning to Wheelers to continue his employment.
His employers changed over the years with a takeover by Mollet Catering Equipment and subsequently UBM builder’s merchants. Opportunities presented themselves and he ended up as branch manager at the Bradford outlet for Mollett’s.
Some of his career highlights include the invitation in 1970 to go to Miami to visit the KFC headquarters and meet with the Colonel himself. This was to enable his employers of the day to be able to manufacture and fit out the UK outlets, including the inaugural KFC, based in Preston. However, as the company grew larger, Chatterton felt the company was failing in its duty to care for its local customers, who he believed were not receiving the best service.
During the spring of 1977 he was frustrated at this lack of quality local provision and decided that the time had come to set up on his own, supplying a service for the local catering industry. So, despite the national challenging economic situation, in November 1977 he set up as a sole trader, with offices in St Anne’s Station and under the trading name Hugh Chatterton, Commercial Kitchen Service.
He was predominately a catering equipment service engineer providing a bespoke service to his customers, aiming to far exceed the competition.
But with his expertise and the support of his wife and family, the business flourished becoming a private limited company in 1982. Chatterton designed and supplied kitchens for many customers including First Leisure Corporation, Matthew Brown Brewery and Thwaites Brewery along with many others. He also worked closely with many of the manufacturers, building relationships CKS still enjoys today.
Chatterton and his wife Dorothy retired in 1997, leaving the business to be run by their daughters Dawn and Diane, supported by sales manager David Holt and a staff of dedicated, highly experienced individuals.
Diane commented: “As the company celebrates its 40th anniversary we have taken time to reflect on the last 20 years since Hugh retired and how the industry has improved and grown.
“We are proud that over the last 20 years we have secured contracts with Blackpool, Lancashire and Wigan council to enhance the school kitchens and bring them up to date, providing students with a relaxing and restaurant-style dining experience.”
This including over the years transforming over 150 dining centres into cook kitchens and working with the authorities during the UIFSM contract to improve over 100 school kitchens during a 12 month period. During this time CKS also secured major contracts at Lancaster University, Rossall School and Blackpool & The Fylde College.
Schools not being the distributor’s only speciality, it has been involved in many high profile refurbishments including works for Torquay Pavilion, Brighton Bus Station, and locally Blackpool Tower and Tussauds.
CKS was awarded the contract for the recent kitchen refurbishment works at the Winter Gardens. “We particularly value our many independents and local companies such as Ribby Hall & Leisure Village, most recently the refurbished pizza and tapas restaurant, the new fast food catering outlet for Blackpool Zoo, and we are currently working with the Villa Group to provide the kitchens and food outlets for the Guild Hall and its hotel and leisure spaces,” said Diane.
“We support many local charities and groups and are keenly aware of the benefits of investing in the local community, fundraising through Lake Windermere swims, Manchester to Blackpool Bike rides, Pier to Pier swims, five pier walks, and go kart grand prix through to support through education, school industry days, work experience placements, gap year student placements and apprenticeships. All have featured over our 40 years.”
She believes the company has certainly moved forward over the last 20 years, and as a member of CEDA, CKS works to a rigorous code of practice in supporting its customers whilst taking full advantage of the technical support CEDA offers its members. It is also a longstanding member of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.
Diane detailed: “Membership of these two key business organisations ensures we have a voice to advise on issues which may need addressing or updating, as well as having the comfort and security of the professional support each of these organisations are able to deliver.
“As an early members of buying group ENSE, we ensure our customers get the best price possible, continually competing with the internet. What we at CKS offer is professional advice, recommending the best equipment for the best job, a full delivery service (ensuring access is correct), and confidence for the customer that when we have completed the outfit, the unit is fully working and legally installed.”
She added: “Needless to say we work tirelessly to build on relationships with many of the leading manufacturers to ensure that we remain up to date with changing products, and to ensure that we can give our customers the full professional service they deserve.
“The service CKS offers for our customers is continually improving, and includes personal consultation, drawings, installation, and after-sales. We also act as main contractor on many installations organising and co-ordinating building works, flooring and wall coverings.”
Diane concluded: “This service was enhanced 20 years ago by our professional liaison with a newly-founded fabrication business based in Blackpool, which provides bespoke fabrication to our rigorous standards and designs, and together we provide the complete service for the professional caterer.”