Name: Gammell James.
What is your company’s name?
Adventure Park at Conifox.
Where are they based?
Near Edinburgh, on the outskirts of Kirkliston.
What facilities does it offer?
Conifox is an adventure park that we feel is ideal for families of all ages with children. We have 35 hectares of land at present and we are continuously improving and innovating to enhance what we sell.
We have a restaurant on site, the Stables Bistro, and we will start serving meals when operations return to normal and all closures are removed, from breakfast to afternoon tea and dinner. Whenever the sun shines, we also have a BBQ that will be in service.
Soon we’re going to have an amazing new activity center with a huge indoor soft play that we think will house Scotland’s largest indoor slide, a toddler soft play, a baby lounge, three party spaces, a café and a 200-seat event area.
What turnover is that?
1 million pounds at present.
How many workforce?
We have 14 full-time staff members and six part-time staff members. We plan to recruit a few more workers once the new indoor room is open and the restaurant is at full capacity.
When was the firm founded?
Conifox was established in 1967, but it was not until 2016 that the adventure park opened. Before being a garden center, the company was initially a nursery, and that business was hit hard by the credit crisis of 2008 and never recovered. In 2014, I moved into Foxhall with my wife and set out to restore the business. I just couldn’t watch the business of my grandfather continue losing money.
To draw more visitors to the garden center, we wanted to add a bistro and an adventure park. After two years of renovation, which included converting a barn building into what is now a bistro, Conifox Adventure Park opened in September 2016.
Until you took the dive, what were you doing?
For 18 years, I was the general manager of Atlantic Sports Cars Ltd, an American car dealership. I started it at the age of 22 in Edinburgh and in 2003, after working to develop it for four years, I realized that in Scotland it would never achieve its full potential, so I moved the company south to Luton and began tapping into the riches of London. We became probably the largest Ford Mustang dealer in the UK over the next few years, turning over £ 2 million a year, but when the loan crisis struck in 2008, things became very difficult for the company.
Then I realized at the age of 36 that I was selling out and working for the company seven days a week. I looked at my colleagues, all of whom were married with children, and I realized that it was my own family that I really needed. I returned north to my family and friends after deciding that it was no longer financially feasible to proceed with this business and met my current wife shortly afterwards.
What was the biggest breakthrough you made?
I still haven’t seen one like that. Having the theme park prosper was always the ultimate objective. I believe the opening of the new building is going to be a major change for the company.
What was the toughest moment you had?
Closing the Adventure Park and halting all development, as a direct result of the pandemic, on the new indoor facility. We were six months into construction when we were forced to close our doors, and it was really difficult for so many people. We retained all of our main employees and those who couldn’t work were furloughed, including our restaurant and event staff. For me, my family, the business and all of our staff, it was a very tough time. At 50 percent of capacity, we have reopened with great care, but we are continuously monitoring the situation and reviewing our policies and parking capacity limits to ensure that we are in full compliance. The saddest part is that the park will not run to its full capacity and we have to cancel all our children’s activities, but we are sure that over time life will return to normal.
What should the governments of Westminster and/or Scotland do to help?
Enable softplay centers in Scotland (if it is considered safe to do so) to reopen and loosen event restrictions, as this will allow us to restore our program of events.
I don’t think soft play centers in England, Wales and Irl are right,