Refurbishment plans afoot as family plumbing business hits 50
Half a century ago Batson Swan would regularly emerge from a hole in the wall in the Walker Arcade on Front Street and stroll around the block in his overalls hoping someone would need a plumber.
Fifty years later, the family business that still carries his name, CF Batson Swan Mobile Plumbing and Heating, is going strong.
This month the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary and is in the process of renovating its long-standing premises on Happy Valley Road, Pembroke.
While the late Mr Swan Sr is no longer around, his wife Marjorie and their sons Mike and Charlie Swan are still involved at the heart of business.
As the company works on refurbishing its premises, which will feature a new ground floor reception and showroom for energy efficient products, the Swans took time out to reflect on the business’ humble origins.
Mrs Swan remembers it well, she and her husband founded the plumbing company on April 1 1963 in what was effectively a hole in the wall inside Walker Arcade. It was part of a warehouse, and Mr Swan Sr got permission to use it to launch his plumbing enterprise. He had learnt the trade through a Royal Navy apprenticeship at Dockyard.
Mrs Swan, who originally had thoughts of becoming a beautician, took on the role of managing the ‘hole in the wall’ office, fitted with a desk and chair, while her husband did plumbing jobs or walked the streets looking for work.
“Two or three times each day he put on his white overalls and took his toolkit and walked around the block, up Burnaby Street, along Reid Street and Queen Street and back to the Walker Arcade on Front Street,” said Mike Swan. “He would bump into someone he knew and he would pick up work, and because he was on Front Street he was close to all the major companies at the time.”
In 1970 Mr Swan Sr and his wife moved to the business’ current location on Happy Valley Road. Mike and Charlie helped during summers when they were out of school. Charlie joined full-time in 1984 and remembers that at its peak the business had up to 20 employees and 12 trucks. Mike came on-board later. He worked as a designer with reinsurance company XL until he was made redundant. He spoke with his older brother Charlie and was soon put in charge of the energy efficiency side of the business, which is now called Encon Bermuda.
Mr Swan Sr was ahead of his time in recognising the potential of energy conservation and efficiency and started a branch of business called the Bermuda Energy Conservation Company 30 years ago, which focused on installing solar power units to heat water.
“Some of the solar panels that were installed 30 years ago are still functioning,” said Mike.
The energy conservation business was sold off after eight years, but the company bought it back about five years ago and it now forms a key segment of the business, offering solar-thermal, LED and water-saving products. When the refurbishment of the ground floor of the company premises is complete many of the Encon Bermuda products will be featured in the retail space.
“We have the world’s most efficient toilet. It can save a household six water loads per year,” said Mike.
Of the ongoing refurbishment, which is expected to be completed some time next month. Mike said: “The outside is going to be repainted and we will have a new front facade. The offices will also be downstairs. I’ve also designed a new logo for the company.”
Asked why he felt the company was still going strong after 50 years, Charlie said: “We do our utmost to provide quality plumbing services to our clients ... whenever they need it.”
A special feature on CF Batson Swan Mobile Plumbing and Heating will be published in The Royal Gazette on April 25.
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