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Newbury Bathrooms’ enthusiastic pair talk about their plans for the business after working their way to the top

From butchery to bathrooms, Mike Mitchell’s career has been a varied one.

The 51-year-old has been working since he was 13 and is now looking forward to pushing Newbury Bathrooms onwards and upwards.

He and colleague Graham Tonge will be taking more control of the business as owner Steve Cossey reaches his chosen retirement age and takes a step back later this year.

Born in Marlborough, Mike grew up in West Berkshire and went to Turnpike School, but admits that he just didn’t “gel with education”.

“It was just something I did,” he adds. “Since I was 13 I have always found work and school just wasn’t for me.

“I found myself a job as a butcher’s lad at 13 and continued working in different shops until I was 15.

“I didn’t take any exams at school as I had a job [as a butcher] lined up to go to so for me that was the way forward.

“And that was my trade until I was about 30 years old.”

But times were changing in the industry; butcher’s shops were disappearing and Mike admits he got a bit disillusioned with things and could no longer see a future for himself in the business.

He then spent some time doing building work before getting a job as a coalman for Pinnock Brothers.

“I was with Pinnock Brothers for a few years,” Mike adds. “I got much fitter then as it was very hard work.

“But warmer winters meant that dried up and I was made redundant.

“I saw a job advertised for a driver at Newbury Bathrooms and went for it.

“That was 15 years ago.”

Quite quickly Steve, who has run the business since 1986, realised Mike was very good at sales – a trait he credits to his years working as a butcher.

“I became more and more involved in the sales side and it has evolved from there,” Mike adds.

“I have always been quite artistic and so I started designing too and went on a number of courses.

“Then, around seven years ago, I became a director.”

When he isn’t working Mike, who is a keen amateur fisherman and likes motorbikes and following Moto GP, enjoys spending time with his wife, son, step-daughter and dog.

At about the same time that Mike became a director, Graham Tonge joined the business.

Graham joined as a sales assistant and has become an integral part of the shop’s team since he started seven years ago.

Brought up in Ruislip, London, Graham’s first job was with Barclays Bank, straight after he left school.

After a year there he went to work for British Airways, based at Heathrow Airport, and spent the next 20 years at the airline.

“I starting off working in the office for them,” he explains.

“Then I went to work in the terminals and did various roles, until I left in 2002.

“After that my wife and I went to live in France. We were there for 12 years and had our two sons out there.

“We just decided we wanted a change of scenery. I didn’t want to still be doing shift work at 65 years old.”

Graham worked in property throughout his time in France, setting up a home search business.

Unfortunately there was a downturn in the market and the family moved back to the UK, settling in West Berkshire in 2012.

Graham joined Newbury Bathrooms almost immediately.

The company works directly with customers as well as building close relationships with local architects, building companies and interior designers.

“The way we work has proven to be very successful and we will look to continue that,” Graham says.

“All of the people we work with feel very comfortable with us as we are all very knowledgeable about what we can offer.

“People don’t just want to buy online anymore, as you can’t appreciate the value of something that way.

“We have always prided ourselves on our showroom too, which we think is one of the best in the area.”

The company is currently working with Richard Branson’s daughter and other previous clients include Highclere Castle, Esseborne Manor and the Thyme Hotel in the Cotswolds.

They have delivered bathroom suites as far afield as Coventry, Jersey, Brighton, Bognor Regis and Grantham, and regularly make visits to London for customers.

“There is a real family feel to the business,” adds Mike, whose sister also pops in to help out every month. “We all work well together.

“You spent a lot of hours with your work colleagues and if you can get along as well as we do it makes a real difference.

“I would like to see us still doing what we’re doing for many years to come, as I think what we do here is very good.”

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