Tony Martin plays an integral role in two of Manchester City Centre’s most popular retail and leisure destinations, Afflecks and Hatch, as General Manager on behalf of Bruntwood Works. We caught up with Tony to learn more about his career journey to date, taking on management of an iconic Manchester landmark and working through a global pandemic.
Tell us about your career to date and experience
My initial background was in hospitality, first starting off as a chef before getting on a hotel management programme, working in hotels and pub management before I joined The Manto Group, taking on a large pub and restaurant that was opening in the newly developed Trafford Centre. I played a strategic role in the setup, operations, recruitment, and menu setting, and not long after joining, I was quickly head hunted by The Trafford Centre to create the role of Retail Liaison Manager.
I was with The Trafford Centre for 8 years, during which time I made strong connections across the 280 businesses trading there, it was this move that took me in to retail with Bruntwood Works. I left The Trafford Centre as I was looking for new challenges and I was attracted to Bruntwood Works by their values, mission, and the fact that they are a family business. I joined Bruntwood Works as a Customer Service Property Manager looking after the assets, facilities and customers based across two buildings, which then led to the opportunity of managing Afflecks, a place that had always been close to my heart.
I played a part in the initial stages of Hatch before taking over the management. Bruntwood Works are amazing and have provided me with some great opportunities and I have learnt so much during my time with the company. Afflecks and Hatch are great places to be a part of and there is a great community feel in both sites.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was taking over Afflecks as it is a Manchester institution that people love. There was a lot of media and public interest around a corporate property company taking over a much-loved independent business, and unsettlement that such a move could spoil what Afflecks had become over the years. I felt a great responsibility to be sympathetic to its past in moving the business forward and I think that I managed to do that as it as much loved now as it ever was.
What does your role involve?
I manage the operational and strategic sides of both Afflecks and Hatch. Afflecks was established in 1982 by Elaine & James Walsh. Bruntwood Works took over the business in 2008 at which point I took over the management, whilst Hatch was created and then began trading in 2017. Both businesses house and support independent retailers and F&B traders.
How has covid-19 impacted you and your teams and what challenges have you had to overcome?
Like all businesses, Covid-19 has had a big impact on us and our people. The support from the government has been outstanding and has provided a massive lifeline for business recovery. As a company, Bruntwood Works have been amazing to both to its employees and customers. I always had faith in Bruntwood Works and knew that as a company and as a team that we would work through the challenges ahead.
Both Afflecks and Hatch are both open again and we have ensured that we have adapted to keep everyone as safe as possible. Covid-19 has forced us into doing things differently and we are realising that some of the new ways of doing things are working well.
Tell us more about Bruntwood Works and what makes it special
Bruntwood Works are a company that believe in their employees and they understand that we play a part in how they shape the business. They have a commitment to drive and bring ideas to life. They care deeply about the World around us and lead on issues that matter. The creative culture and the innovative and collaborative approach to helping Cities thrive is what makes Bruntwood stand out.
What is the biggest challenge facing the sector today?
The biggest challenge is how we truly get through the effects of Covid-19 and that will only come to light over the coming months.
Why did you choose a career within this sector?
On leaving school I attended college and the plan was for me to be a successful chef. Like many people, career paths change along the way and from hospitality I never thought that I would step into retail – the journey has led me to Bruntwood Works and now the retail and hospitality background and experience has been cemented together with the two businesses that I manage.
What advice would you give to younger you?
Do not dye your hair orange when you are 16 – it was never a good look!
Thank you, Tony, for your time speaking with us – we’re disappointed we don’t have a picture of you with your orange hair to share!