Company update: Royal Jersey

One year after a fire ripped through Royal Jersey’s premises and the laundry has been completely rebuilt. Now they’re back ‘home’ and very much back to business Jan Raycroft takes the opportunity to visit the site and meet the team

The whole team is happy to be back on site – most have been with the business for many years

Our latest visit to Royal Jersey laundry in Dagenham is certainly one to remember – and well worth recording. The fire there just over a year ago was devastating in both senses. Traumatised staff were left looking at a blackened and smouldering wreck. Now, while there are still signs of damage high up on some scorched walls, it’s the shiny equipment and smiling, busy staff below that grab the attention.

Chairman Chris Westcott and I sidled off into a corner as there’s what could be an awkward question to put to him, away from the management team and staff. And he might send me away with a flea in my ear, but here goes. “Look Chris, all this happened with Covid going on and your business serving the top end of London’s hotels. Why didn’t you just shut up shop, grab the insurance money and go and live some other dream in Monaco or wherever?

Not only is he obviously unoffended but laughing. Sweeping an arm across the premises he replied: “Just look at these fantastic people. They’re all family – there’s no way I could do anything like that. That’s not what they or I are about – in any case I don’t need the millions. At this stage in my life I feel blessed to have such a wonderful, loyal team, driving their company forward and I owe them this huge investment because I know they won’t let me or themselves down. Failure is not an option.

“Friends and colleagues in the industry asked me ‘Why are you doing it? Why not take the money?’ and my answer was quite simple – I have never let anyone down. It’s not about money anyway but continuing the family business and sticking with the standards of my grandfather (1915 founder Walter Westcott). What would I do with the rest of my life?”

And while we’re talking money, he’s delighted that I love the sheer comfort of the exceptionally ergonomic new epoxy resin floor (“It cost a bloody fortune but is worth it”) not because it’s somehow massaging my crocked knees but that all the Royal Jersey team will benefit, feeling they’re carrying a lighter load throughout the daily duties.

Those usually working from offices are happy to be based at a bank of desks in a corner for now – getting everything up and running on the laundry floor has been top of the list but a new mezzanine floor will be installed in the coming months.

Managing director James Lincoln and general manager Barry Quinn join our tour and share memories of the dreaded day and how, somehow, the team have pulled off what seemed an unlikely target of being genuinely back in business within a year. The devastating fire was on 20 May last year and the first shift on site was on Saturday 14 May this year.

Quinn recalls feeling physically sick while watching the business burn to the ground, wrongly imagining in his shock that he personally had somehow let down everyone else, but the arrival of Lincoln on site was a calming influence and they began to focus on the work to be done. For his part, Lincoln notes that much of the collection of Royal Jersey memorabilia was rescued and while there was some soot damage, a picture of Walter Westcott was, somewhat eerily, untouched, almost like a message to get back to business.

Industry support was both immediate and vital. County Linen made space to handle Royal Jersey’s soiled linen and by 4pm the next day Royal Jersey’s staff had been taxied there and were washing their customers’ linen. They worked through the night to 3am and returned at 2pm to start again.

By January this year the Royal Jersey team knew the task was a virtual rebuild rather than ‘patch up’ job. It was not all plain sailing though. Some six months passed untangling issues with the insurance company before money was made available to really start the rebuild, but then the site was suddenly buzzing with contractors. Within three months it started to resemble a laundry again and Lincoln, Quinn and the team felt against the clock in their bid to hit the one-year target. They made it. Quinn recalls: “The staff were amazing and seeing their faces everyday kept me going to bring them home to our own site. While we still have more machines to come, we are home, and operational in our own premises.”

A work in progress as you can still see scorched walls: but the new equipment below shows how Royal Jersey is back in business

Perhaps a sign of this collective aim is that everyone at Royal Jersey wants to ensure we praise people other than themselves. Westcott and wife Wendy, the customer services director, supply a list including James Lincoln, Barry Quinn, operations manager Pooja Sharma and senior engineer Tommy Willson. Tellingly perhaps, Westcott looks across to Lincoln and the team gathering for a group photo and says: “The laundry is now his and I wish him all the success in the world.”

It becomes like one of those never-ending Oscars ‘thank yous’, but no doubt much more deserved. The ‘credits list’ rightly extends to Tim and Oliver Moore at County Linen and Matthew Pantlin at Bates. Then Quinn and Lincoln add to the list Havering Demolition, Burns Builders Ltd, MC Maintenance, IFL-UK flooring, Paul Rosendale, Ecolab and all the team at Kannegiesser for ‘performing nothing short of miracles’.

On the laundry side Kannegiesser UK supplied a press, two shuttles, seven dryers, plus three ironer lines and a feeder folder for the Lapauw line. Renzacci UK provided drycleaning machines, while Rosendale of R & R Laundry Equipment and Cherrytree Machine Co sourced an ironer and dryer. Three of the dryers were being installed in June, plus the Lapauw, and a fourth ironer line is scheduled for August.

And the customers, don’t forget them. As if we could, when everyone wants to praise their support and fortitude. If it all sounds like a fairy tale ending, forget that. We suspect this is only a new and bright beginning for this family business and no doubt one Walter Westcott would applaud.

 

Teamwork did the trick, and we caught up with these smiling faces celebrating their return ‘home’

Before and after: ‘We can rebuild her’ was the mantra at Royal Jersey

One year after a fire ripped through Royal Jersey’s premises and the laundry has been completely rebuilt. Now they’re back ‘home’ and very much back to business Jan Raycroft takes the opportunity to visit the site and meet the team

The whole team is happy to be back on site – most have been with the business for many years

Our latest visit to Royal Jersey laundry in Dagenham is certainly one to remember – and well worth recording. The fire there just over a year ago was devastating in both senses. Traumatised staff were left looking at a blackened and smouldering wreck. Now, while there are still signs of damage high up on some scorched walls, it’s the shiny equipment and smiling, busy staff below that grab the attention.

Chairman Chris Westcott and I sidled off into a corner as there’s what could be an awkward question to put to him, away from the management team and staff. And he might send me away with a flea in my ear, but here goes. “Look Chris, all this happened with Covid going on and your business serving the top end of London’s hotels. Why didn’t you just shut up shop, grab the insurance money and go and live some other dream in Monaco or wherever?

Not only is he obviously unoffended but laughing. Sweeping an arm across the premises he replied: “Just look at these fantastic people. They’re all family – there’s no way I could do anything like that. That’s not what they or I are about – in any case I don’t need the millions. At this stage in my life I feel blessed to have such a wonderful, loyal team, driving their company forward and I owe them this huge investment because I know they won’t let me or themselves down. Failure is not an option.

“Friends and colleagues in the industry asked me ‘Why are you doing it? Why not take the money?’ and my answer was quite simple – I have never let anyone down. It’s not about money anyway but continuing the family business and sticking with the standards of my grandfather (1915 founder Walter Westcott). What would I do with the rest of my life?”

And while we’re talking money, he’s delighted that I love the sheer comfort of the exceptionally ergonomic new epoxy resin floor (“It cost a bloody fortune but is worth it”) not because it’s somehow massaging my crocked knees but that all the Royal Jersey team will benefit, feeling they’re carrying a lighter load throughout the daily duties.

Those usually working from offices are happy to be based at a bank of desks in a corner for now – getting everything up and running on the laundry floor has been top of the list but a new mezzanine floor will be installed in the coming months.

Managing director James Lincoln and general manager Barry Quinn join our tour and share memories of the dreaded day and how, somehow, the team have pulled off what seemed an unlikely target of being genuinely back in business within a year. The devastating fire was on 20 May last year and the first shift on site was on Saturday 14 May this year.

Quinn recalls feeling physically sick while watching the business burn to the ground, wrongly imagining in his shock that he personally had somehow let down everyone else, but the arrival of Lincoln on site was a calming influence and they began to focus on the work to be done. For his part, Lincoln notes that much of the collection of Royal Jersey memorabilia was rescued and while there was some soot damage, a picture of Walter Westcott was, somewhat eerily, untouched, almost like a message to get back to business.

Industry support was both immediate and vital. County Linen made space to handle Royal Jersey’s soiled linen and by 4pm the next day Royal Jersey’s staff had been taxied there and were washing their customers’ linen. They worked through the night to 3am and returned at 2pm to start again.

By January this year the Royal Jersey team knew the task was a virtual rebuild rather than ‘patch up’ job. It was not all plain sailing though. Some six months passed untangling issues with the insurance company before money was made available to really start the rebuild, but then the site was suddenly buzzing with contractors. Within three months it started to resemble a laundry again and Lincoln, Quinn and the team felt against the clock in their bid to hit the one-year target. They made it. Quinn recalls: “The staff were amazing and seeing their faces everyday kept me going to bring them home to our own site. While we still have more machines to come, we are home, and operational in our own premises.”

A work in progress as you can still see scorched walls: but the new equipment below shows how Royal Jersey is back in business

Perhaps a sign of this collective aim is that everyone at Royal Jersey wants to ensure we praise people other than themselves. Westcott and wife Wendy, the customer services director, supply a list including James Lincoln, Barry Quinn, operations manager Pooja Sharma and senior engineer Tommy Willson. Tellingly perhaps, Westcott looks across to Lincoln and the team gathering for a group photo and says: “The laundry is now his and I wish him all the success in the world.”

It becomes like one of those never-ending Oscars ‘thank yous’, but no doubt much more deserved. The ‘credits list’ rightly extends to Tim and Oliver Moore at County Linen and Matthew Pantlin at Bates. Then Quinn and Lincoln add to the list Havering Demolition, Burns Builders Ltd, MC Maintenance, IFL-UK flooring, Paul Rosendale, Ecolab and all the team at Kannegiesser for ‘performing nothing short of miracles’.

On the laundry side Kannegiesser UK supplied a press, two shuttles, seven dryers, plus three ironer lines and a feeder folder for the Lapauw line. Renzacci UK provided drycleaning machines, while Rosendale of R & R Laundry Equipment and Cherrytree Machine Co sourced an ironer and dryer. Three of the dryers were being installed in June, plus the Lapauw, and a fourth ironer line is scheduled for August.

And the customers, don’t forget them. As if we could, when everyone wants to praise their support and fortitude. If it all sounds like a fairy tale ending, forget that. We suspect this is only a new and bright beginning for this family business and no doubt one Walter Westcott would applaud.

 

Teamwork did the trick, and we caught up with these smiling faces celebrating their return ‘home’

Before and after: ‘We can rebuild her’ was the mantra at Royal Jersey

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