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Humans of Frome: Stewart and Rhiannon Herridge

Stewart and Rhiannon Herridge. Photograph by Ciara Nolan.

A simple post asking for recommendations for a good local garage on the Frome Parents Facebook page offered up a high volume of replies.  I pitched in with my suggestion of Marston MOT. I wasn’t the only one, it seems there is a lot of love in the town for this unassuming garage, hidden at the end of a cul-de-sac on the Marston trading estate.

2017, sees the garage and its owners celebrating 25 years of trading, no mean feat considering the volatile economic state of the country in the last quarter of a century.

I popped along to meet Stewart and Rhiannon to ask them the secret to their success. It was lunchtime and the four-strong team were seated chatting amiably together on the forecourt enjoying some sun and sandwiches. I was welcomed with the usual warmth received there, a far cry from previous garage experiences I’ve endured over the years, where, as a woman I generally feared to tread alone.

I got to know this garage back in 2007 when I bought a camper van; an initial visit to a garage (who shall remain nameless) highlighted the need for a complete overhaul of the brake discs and pads. Bemoaning the size of the potential bill, a friend recommended Marston MOT.

I naively told Stewart that I needed new brake discs when I dropped the van off. Any other garage could have told me that they had replaced them and charged me for the job, not Stewart and Rhiannon. Within an hour they called me to say, ‘You don’t need new discs, you only need new brake pads’ my bill slashed from hundreds to less than £50, I could have leapt for joy. There have been many other indications of their complete honesty over the years, you can take my word for that and that of many other satisfied customers in town.

Stewart grew up in Nunney, his father worked at the local quarry and the young Stewart would accompany him at weekends to enthuse over the amazing machinery at work there.

He started his first business venture at the age of eight which saw him finding or being donated bicycle parts which he then used to build new bikes. When I asked if this was a hobby he laughed and said, “No, I was selling them.” Years working as an apprentice mechanic in various Frome garages taught him many things, but most of all how he didn’t want to do things in the future.   

In 1992, he took the leap and took over the premises that they remain in to this day. He said it was a big risk, especially when not even the bank would back him. Eventually, with a little determination and luck, he found a backer and went for it.   

The day he offered his good old friend and trusted ex co-worker, Adrian, a job he says was particularly terrifying. Adrian was climbing the ladder at his place of work so it was a big ask to get him to step out of that and into the unknown.  23 years on and Adrian sits by Stewart’s side interjecting every now and then to emphasise a point, mostly to do with the happy state of their lengthy working relationship.

Stewart says that he thinks working as a collective in the garage goes a long way to their continued success. Nobody is expected to work alone on a job, they all pitch in, problem solve and help each other to achieve the results that they are proud to say they get.

Rhiannon, an English literature and Spanish language graduate came on board back in the early 90s. Leaving her teaching job behind, she became the nerve centre of the business.  When I quiz her on how a graduate of those subjects can turn their brain to a whole other world of jargon and understanding, she laughs, and explains that the language of the mechanical world is just that, another language. She picked it up very quickly and Adrian interjects that her knowledge is second to none now.   

At the root of this business are the good relationships amongst the team, even the newest member Trevor has been working there for over eight years.  Stewart explains that they are very careful to employ people who have the same ethos as the rest of them – the honesty, integrity and ability to work in a collective manner.

Rhiannon and Stewart may be very invested in Frome through their work and daily life, but they love to travel far and wide.  Africa is a particular favourite.  Rhiannon explains that sometimes it can be a bit of a busman’s holiday as Stewart is likely to help any broken down vehicles that they may encounter on remote roads, even if it takes all day in 40 degree heat!   

They explain that they love to get off of the beaten track and don’t have the same fears as others might of breaking down in the middle of nowhere in Zimbabwe for example, because they know that Stuart can get them moving again.   

They’re not really ones for the average package holiday, which makes it all the stranger that that is exactly how they met back in 1989. A chance meeting in a bar in Crete, Stewart at the end of his holiday and Rhiannon at the beginning of hers; roll on all these years and here they are sitting in the sunshine outside their long-established Frome business with their team of friends and their dog Bertie.

The ethos of their business is good honest work, Stewart explains that when you run a business in a town like Frome you want to be able to walk around with your head held high, or pop into the Blue Boar for a drink without having to worry that someone might be unhappy with some work that you’ve done for them.

I think these guys certainly don’t need to ever worry on that score.  Here’s to many more years of good honest work from the Marston MOT team.