Category: News

Peninsula’s grand design to create 50 new jobs

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A fast-growing home improvements company is aiming to create 50 new jobs thanks to the success of TV programmes like Grand Designs.

Ambitious Peninsula Home Improvements, based in Gaerwen, on Anglesey, have already taken on two staff in Cheshire where they are planning to open a second showroom as part of their expansion.

The company is reaping the reward for its decision to specialise in high-end glazing products like the ones frequently featured in television makeover shows like Grand Designs.

As a result, the firm which currently employs over 30 people is on course to double its turnover to £4 million in just two years.

Peninsula has signed an agreement with Solarlux, the top German manufacturer of glass houses, sliding folding doors and high spec ‘Wintergarden’ conservatories who helped transform the famous Yankee Stadium in New York.

The company has been Solarlux’s approved dealers for North Wales for more than four years, and are now looking to expand into parts of Cheshire and Merseyside.

Chief executive Ken Grayson revealed there was a huge amount of interest and they’ve already made the first UK sale of a brand new Solarlux product, the Acubis glass house which can be an extension to a customer’s house or a stand-alone structure in the garden.

Another partnership that’s working well, according to Mr Grayson, is one with the Fron Goch Garden Centre on the outskirts of Caernarfon.

A Solarlux glass house has been erected inside the garden centre while some of Fron Goch’s furniture and soft furnishings are on display at the Peninsula showroom.

Mr Grayson explained: “We approached Fron Goch because we recognised that they are a long-established family company like ourselves, sharing similar values and like us servicing the quality end of the market.

“The standard of everything at Fron Goch is top notch which fits in with our products and our offering to our customers.

“The Solarlux glass house that’s on display has been beautifully furnished by Fron Goch and looks stunning, it’s like something out of a magazine.

“Solarlux specialise in glass houses and bi-folding doors, including the single-glazed glass structures like the one here which is essentially a covered patio

“This enables people to create outdoor lifestyles all year around, having barbeques outside in the winter if they choose to and it’s basically protection from the elements which is a desirable thing in our climate.

“Being German, they are very well engineered and they are designed for specific post code areas.

“Their engineers work out all the calculations for it, for snow loadings, for wind. They’re hurricane proof.

“It’s important to stress the glass houses are not conservatories, although Solarlux also make fully insulated systems as well. The glass houses are about all-year-round outdoor living.

He added: “We’re seeing increasing demand for high-end products like Solarlux and a Scandinavian range called Nordan, among others.

“Grand Designs has been a game changer because people’s aspirations are a lot higher than they’ve ever been.

“People watch Grand Designs and aspire to that sort of living, and our high-end products are the perfect solution because they also have a long life expectancy.

“Customers realise that if you pay more, you get more – and it puts value on the house.

“It’s more like an investment in your home because it’s just moving money from a current account where it’s earning no interest and putting it on the value of the property.

“I am particularly pleased that Peninsula has achieved the first ever sale of the new Acubis in the whole of the UK, it’s quite a feather in our cap.

“It came about because the customer saw the glass house at Fron Goch.

“The Acubis is very cutting edge in design and attaches to a house but also has a stand-alone model which you can put at the bottom of the garden. It’s very Grand Designs.

“Although we still service the uPVC market, it is the high-end products that are driving our growth along with the service back-up that the clients expect.

“In terms of turnover we’re on target for £4 million this year, from £2 million a couple of years ago, and we’re expanding into Cheshire where we have appointed two directors.

“We are planning a new showroom over there and we are in the process of identifying the best site.

“Our high-end products are perfect for Cheshire, particularly affluent places like Nantwich, Tarporley and Tattenhall.

“We’re talking to the Welsh Government about development grants to help fund our expansion because of the potential for employment.”

It was music to the ears of Justin Williams, the managing director of the Fron Goch Garden Centre.

He said: “This partnership is great for both of us. We have the same type of customers because we’re supplying similar levels of service, standard and product. There is a great synergy that’s going to benefit both of us.”

David Walker brings sax appeal to Sailmakers

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A TALENTED saxophonist who played in front of royalty at the wedding of an England rugby star is set to perform at a busy Ipswich shopping centre this month.

David Walker, 33, will be playing a hometown gig at Sailmakers Shopping Centre as part of its eagerly-anticipated, annual acoustic music festival on Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30.

The father-of-two’s talent led to him being booked to play at rugby star Danny Care’s wedding, which was attended by the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips and her husband, former England international Mike Tindall.

David, who lives in Ipswich and has also performed at balls and functions for the likes of Marks and Spencer and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, is looking forward to playing for shoppers in his hometown.

He said: “The acoustic music festival is a really great idea and I’m looking forward to it.

“It’s my hometown so it will be nice to perform at Sailmakers. There are not as many sax players these days so it’s a little bit niche at the moment.

“My playlist is basically music I like listening to. I can adapt it to the type of occasion or event I’m playing.

“It comes with experience but you get to know what music to play depending on the audience.

“I can play a particular cover and put a twist on it. For instance the Pharrell Williams song ‘Happy’ is very popular and everyone knows it whatever their age.

“When I play it on the sax it’s really cool and not instantly recognisable. When people realise what it is they really like it.

“When I perform I’m essentially playing the vocals on the sax.”

Sailmakers Shopping Centre Manager Mike Sorhaindo said: “The acoustic stage was a big hit with our customers last year and we’ve been keen to do it again and having David there will be a real coup.

“We’re still looking for more performers as it’s a two-day event with slots available and we see it as a great way of showcasing local talent.”

The Centre plan to have up to ten acts performing 45-minute slots between 12 and 4pm each day of the weekend which will also feature student offers and promotions and festival-style face painting.

David realised there was a big opportunity for him to pursue a career in music and turn it into a business when he landed the gig to perform at Danny Care’s high-profile wedding to wife Jodie Henson.

He said: “Danny messaged me on Twitter and said he and his wife-to-be had seen some of my videos online and really wanted to book me.

“I thought what a really cool opportunity. I ended up getting a mention in OK magazine.

“It was an awesome day – I couldn’t believe I was there. Zara and Mike Tindall were 20 feet away as I played.

“It didn’t put me off, it was just another day at the office as such, but I knew I had to be on top form.

“Danny was lovely, he’s such a down to earth guy. It was a big boost for me. Friends and family started to take my playing more seriously – they could see this as a business.”

Music has always played a major role in David’s life, but after losing interest in his late teens it took him several years and a helping hand from his mum before he picked up an instrument again.

He explained: “When I was five I started playing the drums but that became impractical because you could never carry them around.

“Then I played the double bass before trying out the saxophone. I liked the idea of it and loved the sound.

“Music has been a part of my life since I can remember but if I’m honest I didn’t think I’d ever pursue a career at it.

“When I was in my early teens and going to London Guildhall School of Music on a Saturday I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

“When I stopped playing at the age of 17 I didn’t play an instrument again for nearly ten years.

“I didn’t think about it one bit. When you’re 17 and you’re offered £400 for your saxophone all you think about is going out and spending it with your mates.

“Then on my 25th birthday my mum got me a saxophone. It was such a nice present and I’ve not looked back since.

“I’m so thankful to her. She’s proud that I started playing again and that I’ve taken it on to another level.”

He added: “I found it easy to pick it up again. I’d had private lessons when I was 15 for a year.

“I adapted what I’d learnt with watching videos on YouTube which is a massive tool as there is so much material.

“I practiced non stop and listened to lots of different sax players. I’ve adapted that with my own unique sound and people think it’s nice so I can’t complain!”

David is currently on sabbatical from his day job in customer services as he explores the feasibility of playing the saxophone full-time.

He explained: “It was a big step. I wanted to see how it went over the summer and I have to say it’s been incredible, better than I imagined.

“I was worried about the financial side. My second daughter is only one month old so my wife was pregnant when I took this step.

“I knew what the workload was going to be over the summer and I managed to double it.

“It’s opened my eyes a lot because when you have a family it’s great, but to be able to spend more time with them is even better. It’s had a massive impact in that respect.

“I’d say 80% of my work is wedding receptions and generally I work Friday to Sunday. I also do some stuff in the evenings with my brother who is a DJ.”

Any acts interested in performing can contact and for more on what’s happening at Sailmakers Shopping Centre go to and to

New Jobs Bus hits the road in Conwy

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A mobile jobs and training service has been launched to help unemployed people in Conwy find work.

The new Jobs Bus is the brainchild of Creating Enterprise, a subsidiary set up by housing association Cartrefi Conwy.

The social enterprise was the first of its kind in Wales when it was established four years ago and has a pioneering Employment Academy.

As a result last year Creating Enterprise help 39 unemployed tenants find paid work.

The Jobs Bus is available to all “hard-to-reach” unemployed people in the county, not just Cartrefi Conwy tenants.

It will be out an about every Wednesday afternoon between 1.30pm and 4pm and in turn will be located at Llanfairfechan, Penmaenmawr, Kinmel Bay, Abergele, Llandudno and Llanrwst.

As well as supporting those looking for work, the team will also be available to provide advice on things like Universal Credit.

Employment support officer Richard Chance said: “The idea behind the Jobs Bus is to help hard-to-reach people who are falling through the cracks in the system.

“The aim is to help them look for work and get them interested in looking for jobs at their location, rather than overcoming that first barrier of travelling to a Job Centre.

“We’re taking all of the resources to them so we help them with CVs and application forms.

“The mountain will be very much going to Mohammad because taking that first step for people can be difficult.

“This service is open to anyone and is not confined to Cartrefi Conwy tenants – they could be people in long-term unemployment or recently unemployed or even somebody looking for a change in their career.

“Funding to convert the bus has been provided by the Big Lottery fund. The bus has been kitted out with four desks for job searching. The Travis Perkins community fund is supporting the running cost of the Jobs Bus for the next 12 months.”

“Each week we’ll be bringing a ‘special guest’ from a partner agency like the Prince’s Trust, Veterans’ Hub, Careers Wales and Remploy.”

Among those providing support is Jason Palmer, voluntary veterans officer of the Conwy Voluntary Service via their Veterans’ Hub which was established to help ex-service personnel.

Jason knows how difficult it can be readjusting to life in Civvy Street as he is himself ex-Army.

He was badly injured in Afghanistan in 2010 when the Jackal armoured vehicle he was travelling in was blown up by an improvised explosive device.

The former Royal Welsh fusilier, whose back was broken in three places, also suffered a collapsed lung, broken shoulder blade, internal injuries to his spleen and spinal cord damage.

Jason now runs the local Veterans’ Hub which was set up to help and provide support ex-service personnel.

He said: “It can be extremely difficult coming back into Civvy Street at times but on the plus side an ex-service person has a great deal to offer.

“You actually get a lot more probably from an ex service person in respect of their skillset, so their individual ability in terms of things like their loyalty, their ability to actually transcend from different job roles into new ones quite quickly.

“Training and upskilling can be quite easy for people who are from forces backgrounds.

“I think the Jobs Bus is absolutely fantastic and will be particularly effective in getting out to the communities that probably feel slightly more distant in terms of it’s not always easy to access services within the big towns like Llandudno or Colwyn Bay.

“It will provide the perfect platform to support people within these more rural communities. It’s definitely needed.”

To check out the Jobs Bus timetable go to:

Crumpet success on the double for Village Bakery

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Proud bakery workers are enjoying the taste of success after clinching two awards for their crumpets from the “food industry bible”.

The team at the Village Bakery in Wrexham were thrilled to hear the crumpets they make for Iceland had been handed a double honour at the prestigious Own Label Awards run by The Grocer magazine.

They scooped the innovation award and the top prize in the bakery category during the glittering ceremony at London’s Park Lane Hilton Hotel.

The winners were announced by by Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer, and TV presenter Stacey Solomon.

The Luxury sourdough crumpets made with oat grains, sunflower and flax seeds are sold in 420 of Iceland’s stores nationwide.

According to the judges, they were “light and airy in texture” with a “crisp base” and “plenty of flavour”.

They added the crumpets were “bang on trend” while the inclusion of sourdough helped “elevate this product” above the normal expectations of the crumpet category.

It was a proud moment for Nina Czajkowska, 33, who works on the crumpet line at the Village Bakery.

She said: “We were all thrilled to hear that we had won not one but two awards.

“We like to think we make the perfect crumpet which delivers a nice crunch on the outside, nice and toasted, but you still want the middle nice and soft. You need lots of what are called the chimneys which are the holes, so that is actually holding the butter.”

The success at The Grocer awards comes on the heels of a triple honour for the Village Bakery last year.

Then their five-grain crumpets were awarded a gold award for innovation at the Baking Industry Awards, whilst their sourdough crumpets were honoured at the Quality Food Awards and won a gold award from The Grocer.

One of the secrets of their remarkable haul of awards is their in-house taste panel which convenes at 11am every day to make sure the products are always up to scratch.

National account manager Mike Sheen said: “The Luxury crumpet we make for Iceland is consistently popular with our taste panel.

“The taste panel is very tough and they ensure we have amazing quality to control so that our products are always tip top.

“Winning all these awards just adds to the growing reputation of the Village Bakery and it’s fantastic that we can come together with another leading North Wales brand like Iceland to make really excellent products.

“Part of the reason I joined Village bakery in the first place was the focus on quality of the products.

“The really clever thing about the company is that they have the ability to produce in volume but retain the integrity of the product by staying true to their roots as craft bakers.”

It was a sentiment echoed by operations director Simon Thorpe who paid tribute to the team effort of everybody who works on the crumpet line.

He said: “Our quest for improvement is relentless. We’re our own biggest critics and we’re always trying to do that little bit better.

“We might be the best we think we can be today, but tomorrow there is always something you can do to improve it, to step it on, to make another change, and even if it’s small, there is incremental improvement available to do all of the time and that’s what we’re striving to do.”