Tributes have been paid to well-known catering equipment figure, Nigel Villis, who passed away on 23 September after a long battle with illness.
Nigel began his 40 year career at distributor Crox & Southern Cross when he was just 16 years old, starting by delivering catering equipment. His wife Pat recalls he said that he would visit potteries with a view to selling to customers.
In the early 80s the firm became Gardner Wilkinson and Nigel rose to the position of sales representative. “He did a lot of travelling,” Pat said. “He loved every minute of his work – probably too much!”
In 1983 the couple moved to Bournemouth to open a new branch for the dealer, with Nigel being the assistant branch manager, reporting to another industry stalwart, Mike Bridger.
Mike is now project sales manager at HCE Foodservice Equipment and told Catering Insight: “Nigel knew the industry inside out and prided himself on providing personal service. He would work evenings and weekends and even drive out to clients at 3am!”
In 1991 Nigel was made redundant and then decided to start his own business, Phoenix Services. This sold, repaired and serviced catering equipment from a base in Bournemouth.
Sadly, due to his illnesses, Nigel had to retire in 2011. Pat remembers: “We had a good life as we ran an American Football team for many years, travelling to both France and Amsterdam – that was good fun.”
Another former colleague, Lloyd Matthews, who is now sales manager at Roller Grill, added: “He was a close friend; he had been in the catering equipment sector for many years and was well known. He enjoyed the industry very much.”
Mike Bridger summed up his loss: “He was a personal friend and I was even the best man at his wedding. Nigel will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”
Nigel’s funeral was held on Monday and approximately 90 people attended. “It was a great send off – he would have been in his element with all his friends, family and work colleagues around him at this time,” said Pat.