Johnny Vegas offers national profile to Mersey venture

Merseyside venture Retro Chimps has seen some tough times but has now got national exposure thanks to the Johnny Vegas TV show Carry On Glamping. Tony McDonough reports

Retro Chimps
Hughie Brennan and Steve Kay of Retro Chimps with Johnny Vegas


A Merseyside venture that creates custom built ornaments and furniture from reclaimed materials is now getting national exposure thanks to comedian Johnny Vegas.

Retro Chimps was launched out of a garage in St Helens by brothers-in law Hughie Brennan and Steve Kay in 2012. The business has endured some though times but has now been given a national platform.

They appeared on the Channel 4 TV show, Carry On Glamping. It follows the dream of St Helens funnyman Johnny Vegas to create a unique glamping site. The accommodation at Johnny’s site consists of vehicles rescued from the scrap yard and renovated to a high standard.

The recognition from the show is reward for the years the founders struggled to make a go of the business. Hughie said: “There’s been hard times when we didn’t have enough work and money was tight, most people would’ve jacked it in. But we’ve always had faith in the business and we were determined to make it work.”

Retro Chimps now operates from its own unit on Chalon Way Industrial estate. Steve added: “The business started to really take off in 2015. We fitted out a local café and made a distinctive logo and sign. This led to a barbershop fit out and it’s just grown from there really.”

A number of other local businesses have benefited from the Retro Chimps touch. Momos café, Sobrosos Mexican restaurant, The Bard pub in Prescot and The Wine Club in Rainhill. Hughie added: “It’s not just local though, we’ve fitted out pubs in Iron Bridge and Shrewsbury.

“The real break came when Johnny Vegas turned up at the unit with a pair of filing cabinets and asked us to create bedside cabinets out of them” added Steve. “When he returned to pick them up, he was made up with them and started talking about a documentary he was filming.”

Hughie also said: “Imagine our surprise when five months later we got a phone call asking us if we’d like to be part of the programme, and could we come up and film with Johnny.”

Retro Chimps has benefited from the advice and support of St Helens Chamber, which it joined in 2016. Its Business Growth Programme provided marketing support for Retro Chimps.

Steve said: “It was brilliant, the consultant was really enthusiastic about what we did and set us on the right direction. We both came out feeling 10 feet tall after that first meeting.”

Hughie added: “We also had financial planning support through the chamber. That was invaluable. We’ve got creativity in spades, that’s why we do what we do, but to make it a viable business we had to get to grips with the financial side. The support was great for that.”

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