Fragile economy forces closure of Dockyard Glassworks
A double whammy from a virtual shutdown of the cruise industry by Covid-19 and increased costs has forced the closure of a glassworks in the West End after 22 years.
Alan Avery, the co-owner of Dockyard Glassworks, explained that the bulk of business came from cruise ship passengers who had been unable to visit the island because of the pandemic.
He added that costs for materials such as fuel had also soared.
Mr Avery said that about 80 per cent of the 20 full-time glassworks and rum cake staff had been laid off.
But he hoped to restart the business and the associated rum cake firm in a new location and re-employ as many of his staff as possible.
Mr Avery said: “The increased cost of doing business over the last ten years has made it harder and harder to run a profit.
“We are driven 99 per cent by cruise tourism – no one expected this to happen in our lifetime.
“We were supposed to close on November 30. We have officially done so, but we still need a few extra days to get everything out.”
Mr Avery would like to change the business, which is still incorporated, into a hub for creative activity and bring together a group of island artists.
He said: “We are evolving and turning into something new.”
Mr Avery added: “One of the good things to come out of this is I have been able to reincorporate the cake company – our bakery has been located at Sal industrial park in Southampton for about eight years.
“While we will not have the location to sell the cakes, we do have numerous resellers.”
The main furnace at the glassworks is to be scrapped because of maintenance and operational costs.
But equipment used to create smaller, more delicate pieces will be retained and moved to the next location.
Mr Avery said: “We’d like to open for April if the ships come back. Hamilton would be better as we would get local foot traffic – I’d love to get a spot on Front Street.“
But he was saddened by the loss of the glassworks, the core element of the business, despite plans to continue.
He admitted: “I am working on different things but I’d rather be blowing glass if I could.
“I am numb to the whole thing. It is so bad – it’s what I have been doing for ever.
“I understand that it is out of our control but I can’t give up now so I have to keep fighting and find out how to get to the next stage.”
Mr Avery’s Mother Wendy opened the business with two partners in 1999.
Mr Avery, 35, said he remembered carrying the first box into the building as a teenager.
He became co-owner with his mother after the two partners left the business.
Mr Avery said he had been glass blowing for close to 20 years and more than a dozen apprentices had learnt the art over the years.
The cakes can still be purchased at several locations, including gift shop Flying Colours and department store Brown & Co, both in Hamilton.
Rum cakes and some glasswork will continue to be sold at The Dockyard Art Centre.
Ms Avery said: "We’re a glassworks, but we have plenty of irons in the fire - we are still operating and doing stuff in the true entrepreneurial spirit.“
Cakes can also be ordered online here.