THERE’S not much John Quinn doesn’t know about the building industry.
His first paid job involved accompanying his father Joe and uncle Jack to work at construction sites across Huddersfield. And he has been involved in the business ever since.
“I was brought up in the building industry,” says John. “My grandfather began Joseph Quinn and Sons in 1928 and my dad, also called Joe, followed in his footsteps.”
The company, based at Springwood, where John spent his early years, built a large number of houses in the Huddersfield area, including ones at Oakes and Bradley, and employed people in all trades, such as roofers and plasterers.
After attending All Saints’ RC School at Bradley, John became a mason-bricklayer by trade, attending Huddersfield Technical College, completing a six-year apprenticeship and gaining City & Guilds qualifications.
He admits: “There was no question of my not going into the same line of business as my dad.”
John also displayed an entrepreneurial spirit which was to take him in other directions – although the building trade remained the firm foundations of what became a varied career.
In the 1970s, John launched a mobile disco, called Boogaloo, and played the latest hits in pubs and clubs across town. Music has been a passion since boyhood.
“Listening to the music of the 1960s was fantastic,” he says. “My older sister brought records back from a club in Halifax called Plebs where a lot of the top artists on the circuit played. It was mainly jazz, blues and soul. That was how I got into Motown.
“It was 1973 when I got my first mobile disco kit. Being mobile, I was asked to play records at pubs and clubs and it was good fun. It was mobile discos that helped establish disco fever.”
As nightclubs came into their own, John saw another opportunity – entering the licensed trade in the 1980s and opening Flix nightclub at St George’s Square in Huddersfield.
“The building was pretty much derelict,” he recalls. “And if I’m honest, it was the prospect of refurbishing the building and fitting it out that at really inspired me.
“I think my enthusiasm began to pall once the work was done! A lot of my enthusiasm evaporated on the opening night!
“It was a three-month build programme and it cost £100,000, which was a lot of money at the time.”
Flix became one of the town’s most popular venues. “We had a side entrance and ‘gold’ members were given their own key to get in and out as they liked,” says John. “It was upmarket with an a la carte restaurant. People came from Leeds and Manchester because it was different.”
After three years of running the nightclub – at the same time as keeping the family building firm on the go – John sold out to two partners he had brought into the business. Referring to the co-owner of Huddersfield’s renowned Johnnys night spot, John says: “I didn’t want to become another Johnny Marsden.”
Instead, he devoted his time to the family building firm, now known as Millgate Construction and based at Paddock. The company raised its profile in the local community – becoming the first sponsors of Huddersfield Giants after the rugby league club’s move to the Galpharm Stadium.
The company survived the 1980s. “We went into a recession and Huddersfield was hit quite hard,” says John. “But our trade was steady because we were well-established doing work for local authorities and the NHS. We completed a massive housing project in Batley, for example.”
However, the 1990s brought “the mother of all recessions”, according to John and Millgate was caught up in the storm.
“I had a five-acre site where I was going to build social housing,” he says. “The funding was slashed overnight and the project was no longer viable. I got ‘caught’ on two other projects for a lot of money and that was that.”
The setback prompted John to look for something “recession-proof” where he could still use his construction skills – and he found the answer with Decorative Concrete Ltd.
While building up his Lockwood-based business, he qualified as a lecturer, taking classes at Leeds College of Building, and trained as an assessor to make sure other lecturers were up to the mark.
Decorative Concrete Ltd is the umbrella organisation for two businesses – Spectacular Driveways, which specialised in laying pattern imprinted concrete for drives and paths, and hi-spec concrete limited, which provides an on-site concrete batching service for Spectacular Driveways and other clients, including builders and utility companies.
John has big ambitions for the group, saying: “Decorative concrete is an innovative product and one which takes me back to a product area with which I was familiar.
“People are always going to need concrete. Without it, we would have no bridges, reservoirs or motorways.
“But this business is also quite technical and it isn’t something everyone can do, which is also what I like about it.”
As well as domestic driveways, Decorative Concrete Ltd has worked on commercial and public sector contracts, including the footpaths at the memorial park in Lowerhouses and areas around Bradford Royal Infirmary.
The hi-spec business also shows much promise. It provides precise amounts of ready-mixed concrete blended on-site where it is needed by the firm’s own mobile concrete mixers – eliminating waste and ensuring the customer only pays for the amount needed.
Clearly, John has lots to keep him busy – although he finds time for golf and is a Huddersfield Town season ticket holder.
As a youngster, he played rugby league for St Augustine’s and both football and rugby for Huddersfield schoolboys. At the age of 11, he had trials for Leeds United. But serious knee and ankle injuries forced him to give up both sports when he was 19.
Now he is a member at Crosland Health Golf Club. Says John: “I play to a decent standard, but I don’t get upset if I’m off form. Its the comradeship and social side of golf I enjoy most.”
John also has a box at the Galpharm Stadium, saying: “I was in the Greenall Suite at the old Leeds Road ground when Paul Fletcher, who was Town chief executive at the time, showed me the plans for the new stadium. I chose the box I wanted there and then. I suppose you’d say I bought it ‘off plan’!”