These are the stories behind some of Hull's top family businesses

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 23 Nov 2018

Taking over the running of any family business, big or small, must be a daunting task for anyone faced with it.

It could be that the company has been under the family name for three, four or five generations, or simply that taking the reins means taking responsibility for staff and pay.

But family businesses are the lifeblood of cities across the country, and Hull is no exception.

In fact, Hull is lucky to have a proud history of successful family businesses, many of which date back more than 100 years.

Speaking to some of the people currently at the helm of these businesses, it quickly becomes clear that there is a different type of responsibility to that in other companies.

Your ancestors may have laid the foundations for a profitable and successful business, but it is now up to you to continue that legacy.

Here are some of Hull’s oldest and biggest family businesses, their histories, and the people currently running them

Arco

Chairman Thomas Martin.

Arco is now into its fourth generation of the Martin family, which first entered the business back in 1907.

Last year, Thomas Martin became Arco’s first ever CEO and sole business leader, having led the business as joint managing director for more than 15 years.

Before Thomas, Arco was headed up by Tom and Stephen Martin – former president and vice chairman who were the third generation of the family to run the safety equipment leader.

Read more: Arco headquarters could move to Fruit Market if building is sold to Hull City Council

Today, Thomas’ cousin Richard Martin is also part of the executive board at Arco, as the 130-year-old Hull company goes from strength to strength.

Sewell Group

Paul Sewell, managing director of the Sewell Group

Sewell Group’s history dates all the way back to 1876, when Fred Sewell and his gang completed a project on Sutton Chapel in east Hull.

In 1905, Fred and his son Herbert formed F Sewell & Son, at the same as Robert Sewell was selling fruit from a handcart in west Hull to feed his family of 20.

Fast forward to 1960, and Robert’s son Ron had grown the handcart business into a portfolio of half a dozen grocers across Hull and York.

Read more: Sewell Ventures has revealed its accounts from Hull's year as City of Culture

Sewell Construction – a name which is still synonymous with Hull business today – was founded in 1978, and Sewell Group went on to become a private limited company in 1990.

Current owner Paul Sewell entered the business in 1978, and formed Sewell Retail in 1998.

Today, Paul is the sole owner of the business, which has branched out in impressive style.

Having been a major partner to the 2017 City of Culture year, and completed major projects in Hull such as the refurbishment of Hull New Theatre and development of the Ron Dearing UTC, Sewell Group is now behind ambitious plans to create the Yorkshire Energy Park in Holderness.

J.R. Rix & Sons

Tim Rix, of J.R. Rix & Sons Ltd

Rix dates back to 1873, when sea captain Robert Rix traded out of the Port of Hull.

Robert started in business as a shipbuilder, and went on to take delivery of two pairs of steamships, which for the first time bore the family name.

J.R. Rix & Sons was formed in the 1940s by Robert’s eldest son John Robert Rix, with a working capital of £7,000 and one motor ship.

Rix enjoyed a major growth surge during the 1950s and 1960s, brought on by the popularity and low cost of oil-fired central heating, and an increased demand for diesel from the ever-expanding road transport industry. Rix Shipping Co Ltd was formed on in March 1950.

Read more: Hull's J.R. Rix & Sons Ltd reveals its turnover for 2017

In 1977 J.R. Rix & Sons Ltd bought the Paull-based shipbuilder J.R. Hepworth & Co (Hull) Ltd and formed a new company, Hepworth Shipyard Ltd, which built small craft such as trawlers and tugs at its location on the north bank of the Humber.

Current business owner Tim Rix is the fifth generation of the family, and today the company has interests in fuel distribution, shipping, motor cars, caravan manufacturing and property.

In the autumn of 2008, Rix also launched its brand new 2000-tonne oil tanker, the LizRix, named Tim’s daughter Elizabeth.

Rix Sea Shuttle was founded in 2012 to provide high-speed crew transfer boats for wind farm personnel and equipment from the east coast of the UK to offshore wind farms in the North Sea.

William Jackson Food Group

Nicholas Oughtred, chairman of William Jackson Food Group

From a small grocer shop in Yorkshire in 1851, William Jackson Food Group is now a sixth-generation family business.

William Jackson originally traded as a grocer and a tea dealer.

The first bakery opened in 1891 and the current Jackson's bakery on Derringham Street opened in 1907.

The company developed a process for commercially producing Yorkshire puddings in 1968 – a move which would lead to the development of famous brand Aunt Bessie’s in 1995.

Read more: Profit dip at Aunt Bessie's but new owner positive over future

Today, the chairman of William Jackson Food Group is Nicholas Oughtred, the great, great grandson of the founder of the company.

In 2012, the business acquired Abel & Cole and The Food Doctor, and the Group hit the headlines again this summer when it sold Aunt Bessie’s to Nomad Foods in a deal worth more than £200m.

Shortly after that sale, William Jackson Food Group acquired Lancashire-based fine ingredients supplier Wellocks, which employs almost 500 people.

Hider Foods

Duncan Hider, Managing Director, Hider Foods

In 1965, Hider Foods Imports unloaded its shipment of fruit and nuts onto a Hull quayside for the very first time.

At the same time, Douglas Hider opened the doors of his Robinsow Row business in Hull’s Old Town, and the fine food company was born.

After 60 years in the fruit and nut business, Douglas Hider retired in 1982, handing over control of the chairmanship to his son, David Hider, who had joined the business in 1979.

Read more: Hull fine food company Hider has expanded - and will now personalise your jams and biscuits

The third generation of managing the family business now falls to the managing director of Duncan Hider, son of David, who joined in 1996.

Today, Hider’s best-selling brands include Green & Black’s, RJ’s Licorice, Fudges Bakery, Botham’s of Whitby, Mrs Crimble’s, Border Biscuits, Fentimans, Belvoir Drinks, Walkers Shortbread and Buderim Ginger.

Bonus Group

Shaun Boanas outside the Bonus Arena.

Bonus Electrical was founded by Eric Boanas in 1962, and at the time the company operated out of rented premises on Mytongate.

When Eric’s son Trevor joined the business, it had a turnover of just £800 a month.

Trevor was paid £20 per week with a one per cent commission - he clearly responded well to this as just a few months later the company’s turnover had risen to £5,000 per month.

The company later moved to new premises in Flinton Street off Hessle Road, to accommodate for its growth.

When Eric passed away, the company shares were split 50/50 between Trevor and Graham – Eric’s other son.

Bonus Electrical acquired its Blackfriargate site in the early 1980s to accommodate additional storage and office space. At this point the company had grown to a staff force of 20.

Bonus Group is today led by Shaun Boanas, who took the reins after Trevor retired.

Since the millennium, Bonus Electrical opened its own retail outlet in Willerby, realising that customers wanted to purchase lighting as well as other household goods in one shop.

The National distribution centre in Kingswood also opened for both trade and public, adding to the list of multiple branches owned by Bonus Electrical.

Reckitts

Work on the £105m centre is in its final stages

Bit of a different one this, but the company founded in Hull in 1840 is still going strong today under Reckitt-Benckiser.

Isaac Reckitt was joined at Reckitts by his four sons. One of those, Frederick, became the company’s first chemist, and another son called George was its first salesman.

From this point, the business became known as Reckitt & Sons.

For the first nine years in the company's history, the only product sold was starch.

But by 1854 Reckitt & Sons sold more than 20 products which competed in four product categories: starch, laundry blue, metal polish and washing paste.

Read more: Thousands of jobs are coming to Hull thanks to the city's biggest upcoming developments

The company’s delve into the pharmaceuticals sector first came in 1929, and four years later, Reckitt & Sons merged with J&J Colman to become Reckitt & Colman Ltd.

Fast forward to the 1990s, and Benckiser was busy acquiring worldwide branded businesses such as Beecham Household Products in the US.

In 1999, Reckitt & Colman merged with Benckiser to become Reckitt Benckiser Plc.

The company still has its roots planted in Hull, and is set to unveil its new £105m R&D centre.



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