Ice cream maker's bid to save Appleby's Coaches
TWO iconic companies – including the recently closed Appleby's Coach Holidays – could be reunited as one in time for their centenary anniversary.
Just a day after the Conisholme coach company's owner, Bowen Travel Group, went into administration the owner of Appleby's Ice Cream, Robert McQuillan, has announced his ambitions to save the coach company.
Bowen Travel also has five travel shops in Lincolnshire, including one by the same name in Abbeygate, Grimsby, and Appleby's Coach Holidays, in Eastgate, Louth. It is thought 150 people from all five stores and Appleby's Coaches have lost their jobs.
But hope is on the horizon for the 30 drivers based at the Conisholme coach company as Mr McQuillan talks to solicitors at Wilkin Chapman about his plans.
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Appleby's Ice Cream and Coach Holidays were originally part of the same company, until the coach company went into receivership in 2001, and was sold off to Bowen Travel Group.
Mr McQuillan took over the ice cream business in 2009 and rented the coach buildings to Bowen.
He said: "We knew there were problems as the company was behind on its rent, but we didn't think things had got this bad. The news hit us like a torpedo.
"It was a shame the business split in the first place so to reunite it in its 100th year in 2013 would be wonderful.
"I don't think we will be able to remedy the company's debt problems, but I'm hoping we can salvage something and bring Appleby's back together again."
Family firm Appleby's Ice Cream was founded in 1913 by the late William Appleby and the coach company was formed shortly after.
It went into receivership in 2001 under the management of William's grandson, Stuart, and the company was sold to Bowen Travel Ltd. The family kept the ice cream business going until 2009 before selling it to Mr and Mrs McQuillan.
As news of the company's closure got out, William's granddaughter, Jill Muldoon, 67, spoke of her sadness at the coach company's closure.
She said: "I am extremely saddened. I am extremely proud of what my family did.
"The economic situation at the moment is extremely hard for all businesses.
"Bowens were very good. I recently travelled with them myself. I am very sad this has happened."
Employees from the Grimsby shop were told to meet administrators at the Conisholme coach base to hand in the office keys on Thursday.
They claim they have not been paid, however, they have all been offered to work from home for Bowen's business partners, the Hays group.
Managing director of Hays, John Hays, said: "We are trying to contact staff to see if they want to work from home.
"We've found that in these unfortunate circumstances they can continue looking after their clients as we've got the database as we looked after the bookings."
Among local employees is sales assistant of five years, Jason Grant, 42, of Robert Pearson Mews, Grimsby.
He said: "We sat and waited in this little room and then the administrators came out and read a statement saying they weren't in a position to pay us.
"I couldn't believe it. We are all still in shock.
"I have got all my bills coming out today and my direct debits.
"I don't know what we will all do. It is just awful.
"I feel bad for our customers too – they were much more than that, they were our friends and they don't deserve this."
The Association of British Travel Agents confirmed that existing bookings abroad will be protected under the trade body CPT Bonded Coach Holidays scheme and partner, Hays Travel, will honour all existing bookings.
Employees are being invited by Hays to work from home and are interested to hear from them on 0800 412 5990.