How Abbey Glass grew from being ‘a man and a van’ to helping fit out some of London’s swishest clubs and restaurants
“You’ve just got to be out there all the time, making sure that potential customers know your name, and that past customers remember your name.”
That’s the message from Angela Worgan, director of Abbey Glass, based in Llantrisant.
Business Wales visited Abbey after reading about their involvement in fitting out Sexy Fish, London’s trendiest new fish restaurant, which opened with a fanfare a few weeks ago. Celebs such as Kate Moss, Alice Temperley, Lindsay Lohan and Rita Ora were on hand at the event to add even more glamour to the visually-striking restaurant.
It’s not the first high-profile project that Abbey Glass have been involved with, as Angela explained.
“This year, millions of Sky Sports viewers worldwide saw the Abbey Glass logo on the dressing room balcony at Cardiff’s SWALEC stadium, where the first Ashes test was played. The cameras regularly showed the England team on the dressing room balcony, with the Abbey logo in front of them!
So, how did Abbey Glass grow from small beginnings to international projects, Business Wales asked Angela.
“Abbey Glass has always been based in this area, and has a 25-year history”, she told us. “I’ve been with the company eight years, and as a director for just over a year”.
“The business started really as a ‘man with a van’ when a family member gave founder and owner Richard Green a small sum of money to start up a glass-fitting business. Richard built up his local customer base and through this gained enough of a reputation to be approached by Beefeater and went on to do work on over 100 of their restaurants regionally.
“From there, Abbey’s name grew through word of mouth and we got involved with Premier Inn who were undertaking a major refurbishment project on all their hotels. They were also looking at a new promotional campaign, fronted by Lenny Henry and we spotted an opportunity for Abbey here.
“We were able to put ideas to Premier Inn on how a different installation of window could insulate the rooms better from external noise – especially in city-centre locations – and so help them live up to their new slogan ‘A good night’s sleep, guaranteed’. Working with Salford University’s Acoustics Department, we prototyped some new-style windows for them which they loved, went on to manufacture them, and these have gone onto be installed throughout the chain.
“We’ve continued our relationship with Premier Inn and we’re currently involved in a really exciting project where we’re helping redesign their bathrooms. As well as giving the bathrooms a fresh new look, this also allows Premier Inn to look at how to best use the space in the rooms, so we’re very excited at being involved in a project like this which millions of people will experience.
“This led to us getting work with Holiday Inn in London, and as a result of this we were approached by Kyri Spyrou, managing director of Arcacia, construction project consultants for a wide range of high-end hospitality businesses such as hotels and restaurants throughout the world.
So this was where your projects moved to another level?
“Yes. Arcacia have been involved in major projects at locations such as Langham’s Hotel and Anabel’s night club in London, so of course we were very excited that Kyri got in touch.
He actually called us when we were in the middle of another job. The new Sexy Fish restaurant, in the heart of London’s Mayfair, is owned by Caprice Holdings, who also own some world-famous restaurants and clubs such as The Ivy, Caprice, Mark’s Club and Annabel’s. Kyri’s company Arcacia manages all their construction projects.
“Kyri told us that Sexy Fish was looking for a unique glass staircase with a brass rail. It was a massive challenge, but we were able to pull it off to the client’s satisfaction.
“Through Kyri, we also rebuilt the cocktail bar at Annabel’s and that was another project we were very proud of. It also helped raise our name and reputation even higher in some very influential circles.”
Did you meet anyone famous as a result of his high-profile work?
“Unfortunately not! That’s not what we were there for though – but some good publicity for us by association!
“A bit closer to home, and a particularly challenging piece of work, was building a flight of glass steps for the Wetherspoon’s in Cardiff Bay. We were asked for steps ‘like the ones in the (New York) Apple shop.’
“I took a really close interest in that project so I am very proud of myself that we managed to complete this successfully.
“We’re also helping Whitbread with their extension programme and working on Wetherspoon’s, Greene King and, recently Nandos, throughout the UK.
“I’m working for a 100 mile an hour business, which is very high-pressure, and Kyri could phone us any time, from anywhere in the world with a major piece of work, but it’s so rewarding when a project comes off well.”
How did you end up working for Abbey? Is it fair to say that it’s unusual to find a woman in a senior job in the construction industry?
“I certainly never thought I’d end up working in construction!
“I’m from Scotland, and whilst I was still at school, I was sent to do work experience at a stockbrokers in Bath. I enjoyed the work and soon after that settled in Wales.
“But I was always looking for work where I could be in charge, and I saw opportunities working in local manufacturing companies where I could work my way up the ladder.
That led to me getting a job as a production manager with Sony in Bridgend, and I could see a real career progression there, but as things turned out I was offered a redundancy package there 8 years ago. I spotted the opportunity of a similar position with Abbey, took that up, and a year or so ago Richard Green offered me a directorship with the company, as a gesture of appreciation for my contribution.
“Is it unusual to find a woman in a senior position in the construction industry? Not so much now, but it’s not so long ago that I would be the only woman in a project meeting with partners, or the only woman out on site. I’ve taken the LEAD Wales and ILM courses and these have been a fantastic help to me in raising my levels of confidence. I’ve also met so many inspirational women through the courses, and even though the course itself has finished, we still call on each other for advice and support.”