Rather tucked away in a small unit at Pethericks Mill, near River Life Bistro, you will find John and Chris Constable, fine engravers whose products include glass, trophies, metal tankards, and basically anything you can think of that needs a name, logo or slogan adding to it. They trade as CCF Trophies and you can check out their catalogues online for pewter and glass giftware, wedding gifts and sporing trophies. You will be assured of a warm welcome if you turn up off the street, but John and Chris advise that you call first to check they are at the unit. They’ve been busy in the period before Christmas but can still take more orders until 21st December from locals and are keen to be part of our #bigupbude ‘buy local’ campaign.
2003 was a big year for John and Chris, because not only did they start up their business, but they also married that year. 2013 will be their tenth anniversary both as a couple and as a business. Lots of celebrating ahead then – they can engrave their own commemorative gifts!!
The couple are chatty and enthusiastic, and plainly love Bude. After something of a whirlwind romance, John, a man of his word, made Chris a promise back in 2003 that he would sell his flat before they got married, but it wasn’t looking likely! After the ceremony was complete, when he finally had time to switch his mobile phone back on, he found an offer on his flat had been made before they had exchanged vows. Promise kept! Serendipity, perhaps!
Like so many people, the couple are ‘incomers’ to Bude, moving here only in May 2012, but they are already heavily involved in the local community, and were before they arrived. Originally from Surrey, Chris loves to bodyboard; she came here for many holidays and always loved the town. Gradually, the couple found themselves staying in Bude for longer and longer each visit, putting off going home, until the decision was eventually made, as happens to so many, to move here. As their business is largely online, they reckoned they could run it from anywhere. The move to new premises and house was completed quickly, with only a three day cessation in trading, which is pretty impressive.
And move they have, for they are both keen members of the Bude Metric Brass Band and Holsworthy Town Band. They are also members of the Bude Christian Fellowship, and say they felt like they had more friends here before they moved, than they’d ever had in Surrey. John plays the flugelhorn and cornet/soprano cornet, while Chris, who – incredibly – only started playing three years ago, is a second baritone with Metric, and a second euphonium with Holsworthy. She started learning to play because she “got fed up getting cold watching John at band practice”. Additionally, having hit Bude running, they are both incredibly keen chess players. They have set up a Bude Chess Club at the New Life Centre and wish to expand this. Small but growing, the club has a beginners group and a main chess club. January will see a whole new programme/timetable, so watch this space.
Their business though is engraving, which started out from their love of chess. Suppliers of chess equipment and books, they attended chess congresses around the country and soon found people asking for trophies and medals. Clubs wanted engraved plaques for their trophies, so John and Chris thought it would be good to do it themselves. As a result, they bought ‘George’ a second hand engraving machine and started doing computerised flat engraving. However, they quickly realised they also wanted to engrave circular items, like pewter tankards, which would need more sophisticated equipment.
By this time, they had become power sellers on ebay, where they saw the machine they needed, ‘Bella’, for sale. ‘Bella was located in Oban, collection only, and the price was right. So, they set off to collect Bella, discovering that she was actually on the beautiful Isle of Kerrera in the Southern Hebrides, a place which is a step back in time and where you can’t take cars! Bella’s owner was a Caithness trained glass engraver. John and Chris ended up staying 3 days on the island and were taught glass engraving. The machine’s seller was retiring to run a parrot sanctuary. By this time, I was beginning to think John and Chris were sending me up, but it is a true story, if stranger than fiction!
The couple actually met through their mutual love of that mind game, chess. They played together at the 1997 British Chess Championships. John beat Chris and, as a result Chris acknowledges “it was not love at first sight”. They met a few times after that at chess tournaments and started going out together in 2002. The business was something of a ‘now or never’ opportunity. Chris was teaching in a London prep school, and getting rather fed up with admin and a heavy commute, while John was a motorcycle parts manager, travelling all over the country. They wanted to spend time together and a joint business was a way forward. Ten years on, it really seems to have worked. They enjoy working together, and have a good working relationship, though Chris sometimes works from home on the website.
John generally does the pricing, accounts, finance, while Chris lists chess books on Amazon, the ebay listings, and sorts out the websites. They both do the engraving. It is a bit non-stop, but ultimately they would like to expand, and maybe take on a local employee to help. As John said, the main advantage to being self employed is “you get to choose with 24 hours you work in a day”. The business is currently mainly online, through ebay, which means they can go to the beach on a good day and makes up the orders at any time of day or night. On ebay they are top-rated power sellers.
They have been very busy in the run up to Christmas but would love to develop more local business, selling direct to the public, or through shops who can stock items or take orders. I watched them engrave a glass, using their machine, Bella, which utilises a rotating diamond technique (unlike most glass engravers who used sandblasting). It was fascinating, but is also labour intensive. The items are very reasonably priced, I felt, given the work that goes into them.
Locals can, of course, buy direct which is cheaper than ebay because there are no postage costs. The couple, members of the Federation of Small Businesses, would love more of a local presence in terms of selling their wares which are indeed lovely quality products. They keep a stock of lovely glassware, and metal ware, plus resin trophies and generally have a pretty quick turnaround, so there is still time to get that special present bought and engraved for Christmas. A reminder – the last date they can take on a Christmas job 21st. December, so phone them to have a chat about what you need.
They would love to be able to supply shops in Bude, but are also contemplating craft markets next year. John says their aim is very simple: “to provide 100% customer satisfaction”, and certainly, from what I saw, they will go the extra mile to provide the products and service that people want .
So, there is now a slightly hidden local source for engraved pocket watches, wedding gifts for bridesmaids, best man, pageboys, trophies for sports teams, and glassware for special anniversaries/birthdays. Give CCF Trophies and Engraving a try and see what they can do for you. Buy local, #bigupbude and don’t fret about whether items will arrive in the post. Phone John or Chris and get your orders in!
Mobile: 07771 544721
Address: Unit 8b, Pethericks Mill, Bude, Cornwall, EX23 8TF