Following the closure of MST, former Devon Agricultural dealership, in 2022 due to cash flow issues, Jamie Hutchings, the owner of ABA Groundcare seized the opportunity to expand his business and opened up a branch in Tiverton.
Jamie Hutchings said: "We established the business in 2014 in Dorchester. We built up in that region and then looked to expand. I got to know Scott Struthers from MST and dealt and traded with him regularly. I offered him a job many times, but he always said no. Then we heard what was happening with MST and stepped in and offered five former members of the staff including Scott, a job at our new premises in Tiverton, totalling over 200 years experience."
He said that employing skilled staff was an issue in every trade, and he was thankful that he could find five skilled new members willing to carry on working together.
"It was an easy decision to make," he said. "They wanted to stay together working and very quickly decided they were happy to join my company."
The Tiverton branch offers servicing and parts, supply garden machinery, agricultural vehicles, and quad bikes from the likes of Stihl, Yamaha, Husqvarna and Stiga to name a few, alongside the specialist ISEKI ground care unit.
"We are continuing to offer a service which customers of MST now miss here in Tiverton," Jamie said. "It's also a great central location as you can get anywhere reasonably quickly in Devon from here.
"It's a service-led business, but we sell as well," Jamie explained. "We are here to look out for our customers; any sales are a bonus. Scott Struthers, previous sales rep for MST, has built up excellent relationships with customers in the area, it is great to have him on board to continue offering the same service."
"I come from an engineer's background, so every product we sell has been chosen because it's a good quality product, easy to work on and reliable. It's not just about selling product; it's about selling decent products, and that's why we partnered with ISEKI because there's nothing better."
On running the business during the pandemic and cost of living crisis, he added: "The ground care business hasn't been too badly affected, other than the supply of goods.
"People still need the machinery; they still want to be in their gardens, so other than the cost of everything going up, we're in a fairly strong place.
"If customers are not buying from you, they're going to want what they've got repaired and serviced. I don't think we will see too much problem, but we will try and keep the costs down and try and weather the storm."
Commenting on the change Scott Struthers said: "it's the best outcome for me and my customers, I have built up such good relationships with so many in the Devon area and to be able to continue to build on this with such good support and service from ABA Groundcare is the ideal outcome for me."
David Withers, managing director of ISEKI, added: "It's exciting for us. We've been trading with Jamie, ABA Groundcare for many years and have a great relationship, which makes it easier. We know Jamie; we know he is really customer focused and dedicated to the service side of the business, which is what customers really want.
"As well as that, you've got a group of people who we would've lost all of that industry knowledge if Jamie hadn't stepped in to do what he's done. It's great for the customers in the area who will get great backup support, and we'll get more exposure going forward. It's excellent for Jamie to be able to expand his business.
"It's a win for Jamie, a win for us as a manufacturer and great for the staff there who could have ended up without roles or having to do something that they're not experienced in, it would have been a shame to have lost that."
Andrew Parr, a former MST staff member, now working at ABA Groundcare, said: "I worked for MST from the year dot, with almost 40 years of employment. It was such a shock when MST announced it was closing. It was a great shock to everybody because MST has been a part of Tiverton for many years. The old depot was built in 1962 and started as Twose in Halberton.
"I saw a lot of changes over the years, and now it's just lovely to continue providing a service in Tiverton with our customers, working with five former MST staff, and being around familiar faces.
"Jamie is a good boss, he is driven, and we have the backing of ISEKI, which is a great product."
Another former MST staff member, Sue Westlake, is now ABA Groundcare's officer administrator. She said: "Having been made redundant at MST, we were lucky enough to know Jamie, who was looking for new staff, so it fitted in nicely with us.
"The end of MST happened very quickly, although it didn't surprise me. In a way, it was a relief that it happened, but sad. I worked for MST for over 40 years, so seeing what was happening was a shock.
"It's lovely to be able to come and work here now. We have a great camaraderie, and we look forward to doing well here and the company succeeding."