A brave builder who fought off the cancer that almost ended both his company and his life is celebrating 25 years in business.
Five years ago Gez Baylis was diagnosed with throat cancer and rushed into hospital for emergency treatment – it seemed to spell the end for his decking company and possibly for him.
But the determined Llandudno man fought back from the brink and has rebuilt the business virtually from scratch with the help of wife Sheila.
Now Universal Decking Specialists (UDS) Northwest operates successfully using a storage site at the Lock Stock Storage Park in Llandudno Junction, employs six people and is targeting a turnover of over half a million pounds next year.
Gez, 52, said: “The business was going really well and I had a depot in Conwy so I took a real hit when I was diagnosed with cancer.
“I had a problem with my throat and I had made an appointment with a specialist but the waiting list was two months. Sheila persuaded me to go private and I was diagnosed and within days I was being treated.
“They caught it just in time. I only had a 40 per cent of survival and if I’d waited two months for that appointment I wouldn’t be here now but it was a pretty massive hit, to me and to the business.
“I’d never smoked but the cancer was still severe and I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Glan Clwyd Hospital before I managed to get back on the road to recovery.
“We had to rebuild the company from scratch and Sheila joined the business. She had worked as a manager at caravan parks and she had the background knowledge and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.
“We hired a yard from Lock Stock at the Tre Marl Industrial Estate and it’s been the perfect place for us.
“The overheads were lower, the security there is excellent, we’re able to take deliveries of materials coming in on lorries and there was capacity to expand as the business grew.
“We base ourselves there and now have a compound and another yard with a container for storage and we’re able to prepare the decking, cut it to size, etc, before loading the vans and heading off to the jobs.”
Tony Jones, Site Manager for Lock Stock, said: “Gez and Sheila have a brilliant business and they make a great team.
“They’ve done really well. They know what they’re doing, they work hard and they’re great to deal with.
“It’s amazing just how many businesses operate from the site here and from our other sites across North Wales.”
In all Lock Stock, which was founded in 1999 by brothers Nick and Shon Powell, have 16 containerised storage parks in North Wales and the border counties with another two due to open, in Wrexham and Holyhead, soon.
They also operate a van hire service, Take Stock, from three of the larger sites, at Llandudno Junction, Rhyl and Saltney, Chester.
UDS specialises in both timber and UPVC decking, rails and stairs and counts some of the biggest and most prestigious lodge and caravan parks in North Wales among its clients as well as individual caravans and private homes.
Gez, who used to relax by racing a powerful BMW on circuits like Oulton Park, near Chester, and Trac Mon on Anglesey, still has a need for speed and competes in endurance go-karting along with son Taylor, 21, who has just joined the business.
He said: “We operate across North and Mid Wales and into the North West so we’re in an ideal spot here because we’re right on the A55.
“What I’m pleased about is that everyone we employ is local and we always try to source our supplies from local businesses because it’s important to us to support the local economy.
“We started doing decking when a caravan park asked us to step in because someone had let them down and now that’s all we do.
“Lodges and caravans are very popular for people who can use them as a bolthole with their families at weekends but they want them to be nice and high quality and we’re doing more private homes too.
“We believe in doing quality work and in providing a good service and we’ve built it all up ourselves without grants – we’re proud of that.”