The origins of Cyril Johnston & Company, Limited can be traced back to the 1940s, when a young Cyril Johnston left the family farm in Co. Antrim, to seek employment in post-war Belfast. Successful in finding a position with a Belfast supplier of horticultural products, in 1954, Cyril acquired his employer’s business. Thus began a story, which continues until this very day.

Early Beginnings

The 1950s were a successful time for the business, which consolidated its position within the Northern Ireland market. The province was emerging from the aftermath of the Second World War; consumer confidence was growing; purchase restrictions were easing; and continual product innovation was acting as a catalyst for increase sales of horticultural machinery.

Distribution agreements were signed with a number of horticultural machinery manufacturers. The most notable of these, was an agreement to distribute lawnmowers produced by a young Douglas Hayter, the founder of Hayter Lawnmowers and a pioneer of the petrol-engined, rotary mower in the UK. Hayter was to establish his business as a leading UK manufacturer of lawnmowers and Cyril Johnston & Co., Ltd. was to prove central to Hayter’s success. We’re proud that our relationship with Hayter continues to this very day.

A Growing Business

By the 1960s, the company was beginning to emerge as Northern Ireland’s foremost distributor of horticultural machinery, with a growing customer base in the Republic of Ireland too.

The company’s success in the horticultural sector had not gone unnoticed in other industries, with the business securing dealerships for the supply and distribution of agricultural products and machinery. Agreements were struck with Massey Ferguson and Ford among others. Tractors began to share showroom space alongside lawnmowers, brush cutters and hedge trimmers. The continued growth of the company rendered the existing showroom and offices in Belfast City Centre too small. To ensure the continued growth of the business, the showroom relocated to 2 separate sites on Belfast’s Woodstock Road and Ormeau Road, either side of the River Lagan.

 

Relocation and Redevelopment

By the early 1980s, the company had outgrown its premises in Belfast. Cyril acquired land on the Ballynahinch Road in Carryduff, Co. Down – just 20 minutes drive from Belfast, Ballynahinch, Comber, Lisburn, Saintfield and Sprucefield – which allowed him to bring both businesses together on a single site. Cyril’s eldest son Dolway became Managing Director, whilst his younger son David was appointed a Director. Doway and David both continue to serve as directors to this day.

The construction of new showrooms on the Carryduff site, saw the creation of spacious new retail and display space for the company’s agricultural and horticultural divisions. Additional space was also created on-site to facilitate the continued growth and expansion of the company’s distribution business.

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the company continued to prosper, facing the arrival of the new millennium with confidence.

Back To The Future

The mixed fortunes of the UK’s agricultural industry, caused the business to review its operations and focus its resources upon its core horticultural business. In 2006, the decision was made to divest of the company’s Agricultural Division. Acquired by a, local Massey Ferguson dealer, the business continues to trade successfully on-site today.

With a renewed focus upon horticulture, significant resources were allocated to the development of the company’s own Gardencare range of lawn mowers and garden machinery, alongside franchised brands. The Approved Gardencare Dealer concept emerged in Ireland, providing independent machinery dealers with a compelling commercial proposition and allowing them to compete against larger big box retailers with renewed confidence.

A New Journey

In July 2015, the company announced it was terminating its distribution arrangements in Great Britain, in favour of a direct distribution approach. This new arrangement will ensure that all Gardencare customers receive the same consistently high level of service, irrespective of where they are based.

Enduring Values

Much has changed during the past 60+ years. But some things haven’t; among them the commitment of our founder, to offer quality, well engineered products that people want to buy, at a price they can afford, accompanied by a service that exceeds their expectations.

Today, that commitment remains at the heart of everything we do.