20 May 2021
It’s November 2012 and two St Helens lads, brothers in law as it happens, decided to change their lives and venture into the world of self-employment. Working out of a garage, and combining their creativeness and practicality, Hughie and Steve discovered their previously unknown talent for creating interesting, custom built ornaments and furniture from reclaimed materials. Retro Chimps was born.
Fast forward to 2021 and Retro Chimps fame is spreading nationally following its appearance on the Channel 4 documentary programme, Carry on Glamping. The show follows the dream of St Helens TV personality Johnny Vegas, to create a unique glamping site. The accommodation at Johnny’s site consists of vehicles rescued from the scrap yard, and renovated to a high standard.
It’s been a long journey though for Retro Chimps and Directors Hughie Brennan and Steve Kay. The intervening years have been tough. Hughie says: “There’s been hard times when we didn’t have enough work and money was tight, most people would’ve jacked it in. But we’ve always had faith in the business and we were determined to make it work.”
Retro Chimps now operates from its own unit on Chalon Way Industrial estate. “The business started to really take off in 2015” says Steve, “We fitted out a local café, and made a distinctive logo and sign. This led to a barbershop fit out, and it’s just grown from there really.”
Numerous other local businesses have benefited from the Retro Chimps magic. Momos café, Sobrosos Mexican restaurant, The Bard pub in Prescot, and The Wine Club in Rainhill. Hughie commented: “It’s not just local though, we’ve fitted out pubs in Iron Bridge and Shrewsbury.”
“The real break came when Johnny Vegas turned up at the unit with a pair of filing cabinets, and asked us to create bedside cabinets out of them” says Steve. “When he returned to pick them up, he was made up with them, and started talking about a documentary he was filming.” Hughie interjected, “imagine our surprise when 5 months later we got a phone call asking us if we’d like to be part of the programme, and could we come up and film with Johnny.”
To view Retro Chimps contribution to the programme, watch it. It’s on C4 and available on “catch up”. Unsurprisingly, they were presented with various discarded materials, and tasked with creating something stunning, interesting and unique. Suffice to say Hughie and Steve did not disappoint.
Retro Chimps have been Chamber Members since 2016. “We were stuck at the time,” says Hughie, “we desperately needed advice on how to grow”. St Helens Chamber Business Growth Programme provided marketing support. Steve says: “It was brilliant, the consultant was really enthusiastic about what we did and set us on the right direction. We both came out feeling 10 feet tall after that first meeting.”
Hughie added: “We also had financial planning support through the Chamber. That was invaluable. We’ve got creativity in spades, that’s why we do what we do. But to make it a viable business we had to get to grips with the financial side. The support was great for that.”
If you’d like to know more St Helens Chamber Business Growth Programme or Business Financial Planning, contact John Woods on 01744 742058 or email email@example.com
To find out more about Retro Chimps visit www.retrochimps.co.uk