One of the catering equipment industry’s best-known characters, Jim Doherty, is about to retire after nearly 30 years with FEM.
Mr Doherty who co-founded the company in 1993 with Harry Hogan after they spotted an opportunity to import leading equipment brands from North America to the UK, will hang up his company boots at the end of December.
Although his business partner will carry on with the firm, Mr Doherty has decided it’s the right time to call it a day.
Originally he had intended to retire in June 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant it was all hands on deck and he agreed to stay on until the end of the year to see the company through the crisis.
When the duo originally set up the operation, it was just them and a telephone in a small premises in Glasgow.
It is now among the 10 largest catering equipment suppliers in the UK, with a warehouse of almost 50,000 square feet and revenues of around £20m a year prior to the pandemic.
He said: “The idea behind FEM was to establish strategic partnerships with major American manufacturers. We made early contact with the Vollrath Company and went on to sign an agreement with them at the 1993 NAFEM Show.
“To have a market leader like Vollrath as our first partner manufacturer was a fantastic start to a new business. Subsequently we’ve enjoyed wonderful partnerships with many companies, such as Hamilton Beach Commercial and Cambro – the longevity of our business relationships has been fantastic.”
“The greatest success has been seeing the ongoing growth of FEM. From a zero start, FEM has grown year on year, becoming one of the most successful businesses in the industry. We have done this together with an outstanding team, and have been fortunate in having supportive, market-leading supply partners and a great customer base, many of whom are now personal friends.”
Mr Hogan paid tribute to his friend and colleague by calling him the “the face of FEM” and said he had been responsible for opening many doors for its products and services.
“He’s professional, tenacious, perseverant, friendly and understanding, and always endeavoured to help the clients with his can-do attitude.
“Along the way we’ve had many adventures, many late nights and a few lucky escapes! We have enjoyed the journey together and one of the things I will miss will be our evening phone call, going over the day’s business. Jim has been my business partner and is my best friend and I’m delighted that he’s has agreed to become FEM’s first non-executive director.”
Mr Doherty admitted he had mixed feelings about leaving the industry at such a difficult juncture.
“I feel desperately sorry for the owners, employees, and suppliers of all the businesses that have suffered badly, especially those that have not been able continue. However, I believe that the industry will start to recover in the spring, once the vaccines begin to kick in, and will continue to grow during the second half of next year. Full recovery will obviously take much longer, but the operators and suppliers that remain will come out the other side stronger and more robust.”
Mr Doherty said he now plans to use his retirement to spend more time with his “long-suffering” wife Sahira and the rest of his family.
He said: “We had our first grandson earlier this year and haven’t been able to spend much time with him. Hopefully we can put this right soon. Travel is also on the agenda when again Covid allows and Sahira has been putting together a list of destinations, hopefully starting with South America sometime in 2021.”