family business with ‘Fresh Ideas for Frozen Foods’,
Hopwells Limited is one of the largest family-owned frozen food
companies in the UK. Today the business is based in Glaisdale Drive,
The Hopwells story really began on 22nd July 1944 - the birthday
of Timothy Peter Hopwell. He was born in Sandiacre, Nottingham,
where he attended Bramcote Hills School. Tim developed a love of
trucks from his father; William Hopwell, who ran his own business
in Stapleford called ‘Universal Demolition Company’.
Tim always worked hard, and when he wasn’t out on the truck
with his dad he was helping the local milkman do his rounds. After
leaving school Tim was given his own milk round. He then left to
work for Newark Egg Packers based in Nottingham which regularly
brought him to the local markets where he made many friends and
became well known by all the market traders, especially the fruit
and veg sellers.
Eventually Tim went to work for a firm named R F Willis which had
a successful fruit and veg wholesale business with depots at Nottingham,
Leicester, Birmingham, Smethwick, coventry, Kings Cross and Hendon.
Tim became one of their many drivers, delivering produce throughout
the county. In 1966 he was promoted to Depot Manager at Willis’
Meadow Grove site in Nottingham.
However, Tim was both very ambitious and very good at his job.
In 1975 he decided to leave R F Willis and set up his own company
- T P Hopwell Limited.
As Tim knew the business so well, and had a great many contacts
in the fruit and vegetable trade, the business was soon a huge success.
He started the company at Landmere Lane, Edwalton, with just two
vans and six staff, but it wasn’t long before Tim’s
good business sense won him the Leicester schools’ contract
to supply fresh fruit and veg and some frozen food. He needed to
expand quickly and purchased another site in Leicester, bought six
more lorries and set on another 14 staff.
By all accounts Tim could be a tough task master, but at the same
time was always very fair. He worked hard himself and expected the
same from his employees - most of whom remain with the company today
and who still enjoy exchanging stories about their times with Tim
at the helm.
According to Terry Spencer, a now retired long-serving employee
and friend of the family: “When Hopwells was in its infancy
in the mid-1970s the operation was much different from present day
format. There were hardly any frozen food as it was mainly fresh
fruit and vegetables and supplying mainly Local Authority clients.
“This meant that the buying operation was achieved by purchasing
produce from the Nottingham Fruit & Vegetable Wholesale Market
which was then based at Sneinton, Nottingham. The actual buying
was mainly done by the late Mr Tim Hopwell and later by Terry Spencer.”
Many stories were told of these early morning experiences and here
are few of them. “The Company would collect most of the produce
on its own transport to get it fresh onto its vehicles for delivery
the same day; this meant very early morning starts for those involved
in the market operation. One morning we needed to get a pallet of
fresh tomatoes back early, we we quickly bought a pallet and despatched
it onto our waiting vehicle - a flat-back lorry and sent it on its
way to Landmere Lane, Edwalton (Hopwells, first premises). After
a few minutes there was a phone call from the driver in a very upset
state saying that the full pallet had fallen over and the tomatoes
were rolling down the hill at the bottom of Hockley (near the market)
- needless to say all the waiting vehicles were late out for their
deliveries - surprisingly, the driver still works for us today!”
“Most of the stall holders were real characters, like Burt
Jacobs who once bought a consignment of new potatoes which were
delivered to Nottingham by a goods train, Midland Station Sidings.
Because the potatoes were all stacked by hand all our drivers had
to pick up their shipment when they had finished their delivery
rounds, so that day was a very late day - we never did get to find
out why the potatoes hadn’t arrived by road. Thank goodness
it was before the days of tachographs!”
“Mr Hopwell once employed another buyer who wasn’t
with us for long. He bought a few tonnes of swede from the market,
the problem was that he forgot to tell Mr Hopwell who went absolutely
bananas as he had gone and bought several tonnes of swede himself
from another supplier. I think the Local Authorities were fed up
of putting swede on the menu for a long time afterwards!”
“After the early morning buying was complete we would go
into the market cafe, which was owned by a lady called Thelma, who
was one of the most colourful and outspoken ladies you could wish
to meet. It was no good going into her cafe if you were shy or quiet.
She didn’t ring a bell when your order was ready; she would
shout at the top of her voice in some choice words, everyone would
be in stitches - what a character she was.”
“There were many more amazing people such as David Hammond,
George Smalley, Arthur King, David Russell, Pete Buttery, Malc Pearson,
John Heeley to name but a few, some of whom are unfortunately no
longer with us. They were at the heart of a busy thriving market
which on a daily basis had some marvellous stories to talk about,
not all of which were amusing; some were serious and sad - part
of everyday life in an environment that had been in existence for
many years in Sneinton.”
In 1982 R F Willis, the company Tim had once worked for, was put
up for sale. It had previously been taken over by the Imperial Tobacco
Group which had in turn then sold it on to the Hanson group who
were now selling it themselves. Tim took a gamble and bought this
business. It was a particularly proud day for Tim to have purchased
the firm which had once employed him.
The firm had depots in Birmingham, Coventry and Daleside Road,
in Nottingham. Tim closed the Coventry depot, amalgamated his depot
at Landmere Lane and the newly-acquired depot at Daleside Road and
bought the premises on Glaisdale Drive,Bilborough, which today is
the Hopwells’ Head Office.
Hopwells now had a fleet of 80 lorries and employed over 80 staff.
In 1986 Tim closed the Leicester Depot and moved to Swadlincote
in Derbyshire, changing the name of that depot to Fresh-Way (Midlands)
Limited. The other depots now were only involved in the distribution
of frozen foods with all the fresh produce being processed by Fresh-Way.
The business went from strength to strength. In 1991 Tim bought
another depot in Sawston, Cambridgeshire, relocating it to a site
in Kimbolton in 1993.
In 1994 a Sheffield depot was purchased where a brand new cold
store was built three years later. Another depot was bought in Ormskirk,
near Liverpool, in July 1996, but sadly Tim died on 9 August, 1996,
just three weeks after the purchase. A sixth depot was purchased
by the company in 2006 in Darlington, Co. Durham.
Today the company is owned and managed by Tim’s wife, Company
Chairlady Lilian Hopwell; their son, Tristan Hopwell is the Managing
Director. The company now has six depots, a fleet of 100 lorries,
over 35 company cars and more than 250 employees.
Hopwells’ lorries are a distinctive colour of red and not
the usual white that is commonly used within the industry and every
Hopwell’s lorry has the slogan of ‘Success Built on
Service’ painted on its side - this was the ethos of Tim Hopwell.
He believed, and has been proven right, that the success of a business
is built on the service it gives.
Hopwells Limited has become a huge success story. The business
was truly built on the quality of service it offers to all of its
customers throughout their distribution areas. Hopwells is a long-serving
member of the British Frozen Food Federation: Hopwells’ Operations
Director, Phil Holman, sits on the Federation’s committee,
helping to decide future policies for the frozen food industry.
Each depot has been CMi accredited to the highest level; frozen
food is sold to all spheres of the catering industry, including
schools, hospitals, social services and to the private sector such
as hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes. The Company has a strong
sales force of professional account managers, experienced and dedicated
telesales teams, drivers and cold store operatives working out of
each of the six depots to ensure total customer satisfaction at
In 2006 the Company bought its own vehicle repair and maintenance
garage on Furnace Road, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, to service and maintain
its fleet of 100 refrigerated vehicles. The garage - Total Independent
Maintenance - is named t.i.m. Commercial Vehicle Services and employs
eight qualified mechanics and four office staff alongside the company’s
Fleet Manager, Dave Williams, Lilian Hopwell is also based down
at the Furnace Road premises where she is most days, other than
when she is out and about visiting the other depots in the group.
Tim Hopwell had a vision of a company run on good old-fashioned
family values and loyalty, and that tradition is upheld today throughout
the Hopwell Group, not least amongst its directors.
Chairlady Lilian Hopwell became an active member of the Board of
Directors immediately after Tim’s death in 1996. Prior to
her role towards making Hopwells the success story it is today,
she was kept very busy supporting her husband and raising their
two younger children, Ashley and Rosheen Hopwell. She attended many
business events standing by Tim’s side and went to exhibitions
both in the UK and overseas and was, therefore, well known throughout
the food industry before becoming the Chairlady of the Hopwell Group.
Outside the business, Tim Hopwell was and his family still is today,
passionate supporters of their home town football team, Nottingham
Forest. Tim was very proud of his team and took great pride in sponsoring
their youth team and seeing the Hopwells name on their strip. The
Hopwell family still are season ticket holders, and other than holiday
commitments never miss a home game at the City Ground.
Managing Director Tristan Hopwell joined the family business at
the age of 22. He came from the motor industry having served his
apprenticeship as a mechanic with Speeds Motor Group and went on
to become a sales representative selling new and used Volvos. Tristan
was fast-tracked through the different operations of the business
due to his father’s health problems. Sadly, due to Tim’s
premature death, they never did get to work together side-by-side.
David Plester, Hopwells’ Financial Director, came to Hopwells
when Tim Hopwell bought R F Willis in 1982. David was then R F Willis’
Accounts Office Manager based at the Birmingham Depot. In 1983 David
became the Depot Manager at the Brownhills Depot and then went on
to be responsible for the ordering of stock. By 1988 David also
managed the company’s accounts and was made the Financial
Director in 1989, where he remains today.
Andy Breffit joined the company in January 1997 as Commercial Director.
He came from Grimsby-based Bluecrest Foods, where he held the position
of Director of Foodservice and Hopwells was one of their customers.
Andy has been an associate and friend of Tim Hopwell prior to Tim’s
Operations Director Phil Holman came on board as Operations Manager
in 1992. He came from an operational background working with Rowntree
Distribution Ltd, followed by a short spell with TDG managing a
Sainsbury’s distribution site. Phil was made a Director of
Hopwells in 1996.
Other long-serving staff include Terry Spencer - retired Depot
Manager; Ann Bradley - retired, but longest serving telesales operator;
and Terry Herrick, who still works as a multi-drop delivery driver
at the Nottingham Depot and Graham Putnam, who has been with the
Company from the beginning and is ow the Depot Services Manager.
In 2005 Hopwells celebrated 30 years of being in business. A ‘Seventies
party’ was held at Morley Hayes Golf Club, Derbyshire, where
the Directors came in 1970s fancy dress in celebration. Staff, suppliers
and business associates were also invited to the party.
Hopwells’ slogan, ‘Success built on service’,
sums up how the company has maintained its growth over the years.
The importance of providing customers with a friendly, consistently
reliable service, backed up by an excellent range of innovative
food products at competitive prices cannot be over-stated. Every
employee knows that only an excellent level of customer care sustains
the company’s position in the marketplace.
For the future, Hopwells intends to retain its independent status
and to continue its steady growth into both new and existing areas
of the country. With its unrivalled experience, distinctive branding
and an unbeatable reputation amongst caterers, the company looks
forward to the coming years with complete confidence in Tim Hopwell’s
legacy of excellent.