The founder of Newbank garden centre marked his milestone 90th birthday on Thursday, with family and friends at a surprise party at the company’s Radcliffe branch.
John Hartle was welcomed to the centre where offices had been dressed up with pictures showing how he had built up the Newbank business over 60 years, and he was presented with a cake made by Slattery of Whitefield, depicting his life and the garden centre – amazing him with its detail.
The famous Radcliffe Newbank garden centre, which ranks in the top 30 independent garden centres in England, is one of four owned by the family run chain, and has been open in Bury for 30 years.
Starting life as a farmer, raising animals and selling eggs and dairy products, John Hartle soon realised he had a knack for buying and selling land at a profit, embodying his favourite phrase: “keep buying land as they don’t make it anymore.”
Early and success brought Mr Hartle to Turf Lane, Royton, where he sold farm produce with his cousin.
On a family trip to Wales Mr Hartle came across a group of lads at a farm gate selling roses and trebling their money, challenging them to deliver a truck load to his Royton farm shop.
The roses sold out in two hours and so Mr Hartle decided to start selling plants alongside his farm produce, leading to the creation of Newbank and one of England’s first garden centres.
A second Newbank site, constituting a disused farm and derelict buildings, was purchased at Irwell Bank, Radcliffe in 1986 in what turned out to be a stroke of genius.
Although a huge fire in 2003 destroyed the farm’s characterful old feature buildings, the blaze allowed Newbank Radcliffe to rebuild, and the centre is now famous across the country.
Radcliffe’s success enabled Mr Hartle and Newbank to expand into Dobcross and Halifax a decade later.
Jon Bottomley, John Hartle’s grandson and Newbank garden centre commercial director, said: “Grandad has always loved plants, not just because he’s been able to sell them and make money, but he has always been fascinated by them and loved learning all the names.
“My grandad has always been an extremely popular figure with the people who have worked for him, his friends and the local community, he loves a joke, a good story and having a laugh with people.
“No matter how well he has done in life, he has always been happiest at work, talking to customers and selling plants, and he has provided an amazing life for all his family.
“I know he has been dreading this milestone birthday, but he has no need to, it is a celebration of the amazing things he has achieved and the fantastic man he is.”