Meet the Yarmouth firm whose customers include the Royal Family, Cartier and Burberry
16:58 12 February 2014
Archant Norfolk © 2014
It counts the Royal Family, Cartier and Burberry among its clients.
But most people in Great Yarmouth would not give the headquarters of Downey and Company a second glance. For the bespoke printing firm’s chosen base is an anonymous factory building near Great Yarmouth Rail Station.
The company crafts paper products designed to wow – from luxury chocolate bar wrappers to invitations to royal events. It moved into the former Johnson’s factory in The Conge in the mid 1970s, and employs 35 people in Yarmouth today.
Company director Chris Turner said the secret to its longevity was to never stand still. The firm is continuing to re-invest so it can meet its clients high standards, proving a Yarmouth business success story.
Downey and Company’s latest investment was £100,000 on a foiling machine last month – which will help produce the latest fancy designs for clients.
And 62-year-old Mr Turner said business could thrive in Yarmouth as there were skilled workers there.
“We have to keep changing and adapting and innovating because if we don’t do that, we’re going to be left behind,” he said. “The company has been going for more than 100 years but it’s changing faster and faster.”
Mr Turner has worked in the printing trade for decades, starting as an apprentice then working his way up.
But he still has the passion of Willy Wonka revealing his latest candy creation when he talks of his newest products. They include invitations shaped like lollipops with the message revealed by spinning a propellor, paper layered in a rainbow of colours for a “stunning” liquorice effect, and paper stacked to show an indented design.
“You would think I’ve seen it all, but you keep trying new things and I think ‘wow, that’s absolutely beautiful’ and go home feeling excited,” said Mr Turner. “It’s not just something that’s going to go in the bin and that’s what we stress with our clients.”
The factory floor is a hive of activity, with vintage machines from the 1950s and earlier transforming sheets of card into something artisan.
It includes an old-fashioned letter press, machines to gild letters with gold edges and pots of dye stacked by the wall.
Plenty of importance is placed on hand-crafting products, as the company’s market is at the luxury end of the spectrum.
Mr Turner explained that people asked Downey and Company for help when they wanted to impress – for instance with an event invitation.
It is a reputation that has seen them commissioned by the Royal Family – having worked for most of the palaces and been visited by people working for Prince Charles. Luxury brands Cartier and Burberry are regular customers; they designed invitations for Olympic events, enjoyed a flurry of requests for London Fashion Week and have been tasked with work by prestigious chain the Dorchester.
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