A Highlands couple dreaming of retirement have put their autoparts business on the market with Hilton Smythe, one of the UK’s leading business sales advisors and finance brokers.
Highly successful Thurso Autoparts, the only business of its kind in a 100 mile radius, was established more than 40 years ago and was taken over by Graham and Angela Gunn six years ago, when the previous owner retired.
The couple have developed the business to include a key cutting service, specialist car paint mixing and a registration look-up system to get the exact coolants and lubricants for particular cars.
Graham, who is an electrician by trade, said: “My wife and I are partners in the business. She uses her skills as a former PA to keep the books in order, while I handle the mechanical side.
“Between the two of us, we have managed it really well.”
The firm’s nearest rival is at least 100 miles away, making the business a very attractive proposition for somebody else with the skills to work in the automotive industry or an investor.
The business has had a lot of custom from tourists completing the Northcoast 500 – a 500-mile journey starting in Inverness and heading north. The trek can take days or weeks to complete and requires a fully functioning vehicle.
Graham said: “Anybody and everybody in the area uses the business, from people whose cars have broken down or need a service to businesses looking for number plates.
“This year we’ve had a lot of business from people doing the Northcoast 500, because they know we’re the only autoparts business for miles. It’s a lovely part of the job because you get to meet people who are discovering and falling in love with the local area for the first time.”
Graham continued: “We are also able to mix paint to each specific car for customers who want to fix a little dent or scratch themselves. We are the only business in the North of Scotland that does that.
“There is so much scope to develop the business further, but we are getting ready to retire now.”
The couple are in the fortunate position of taking early retirement as they approach 55, having previously lived apart for long periods when Graham worked away as a pilot on Remotely Operated underwater Vehicles (ROVs) for the likes of Subsea 7, Fugro, Oceaneering and DeepOcean.
Graham said: “We would like to go travelling. I used to work away a lot for between four and eight weeks, then come back for maybe a month before going away again.
“We used to have an old camper van and when I was at home, we would spend a lot of time just travelling around and enjoying ourselves, so we would like to do that again.”
Originally, Graham and Angela bought the business to put something back into the community. Angela was going to run it while Graham continued working away, however, the business proved so successful that the couple decided to run it together full time.
Graham said: “It’s a good local business and when the previous owner was retiring, I wanted to keep it going to help out the community. The fact we could be our own bosses also appealed and I’ve also got a strong interest in anything mechanical.
“I’ve spent a lot of my life working away and feel I have missed a lot, so I set out to retire at 55 and we are coming up to that age now.
“We are ready to take a break and look forward to seeing the business grow and develop under new ownership.”
Gareth Smyth, CEO of Hilton Smythe Group said: “Graham and Angela have clearly put their heart and soul into Thurso Autoparts and developed a business that is unique to the local area. We’re very pleased to help them find new owners for the business.
“We’re confident that whoever takes over the business will enjoy a loyal and varied customer base and will have plenty of opportunity to grow the business further.”