James Alpe chats to Gail Bailey about the continuing journey in his award-winning business
Having grown up on a farm on the Duchy of Lancaster estate, James Alpe always had a passion for cars. After completing an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic, he started his first business aged 21, repairing cars from home on his father’s farm. As his business grew, he moved to larger premises at Salthill in Clitheroe and still runs the business from the original plot to this day.
Now one of the country’s largest accident repair centres and vehicle conversion specialists, James Alpe is unique in the diverse range of services it offers ensuring customers’ needs are central to its service with the team being experienced and committed to offering a quality, personal service.
The premises have grown as the business has grown and expanded: “We have recently had the entire exterior of our building re-clad to update it and keep it fresh, along with a large extension to the body shop,” James explains.
This includes six body alignment jigs now being in operation along with modernisation of the interior of the building too and new, innovative toolboxes for each technician: “With the automotive industry shift towards electric and hybrid vehicles and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) becoming standard in many vehicles, it’s vitally important we have a workforce that can work safely and with confidence to recalibrate this when carrying out repairs,” James says.
“Our technicians are highly qualified and experienced and have completed valid IMI TechSafe route qualifications, which are the only professional standards for working on electric/hybrid and ADAS technologies – proving their competence to work safely and effectively.”
Having a bespoke, internal apprenticeship scheme is a big part of the personal and professional development of the business and one manager is in place whose sole focus is to oversee the whole process: “We currently have 12 apprentices completing their four-year programme and our Training and Development Manager works closely with them, and their mentors to ensure they have everything in place to complete their training. Our apprenticeship programme is an important part of the business, and it brings a new wave of bright, young people into the business to help us keep moving forward – it is an honour to see our apprentices grow and it’s something we’re all really proud of.”
James Alpe Ltd is a supporter of all things local and is a sponsor of both Clitheroe Football Club as well as one of the Clitheroe Wolves teams, where one of their workforce is a coach: “As a company we are committed to supporting the local community and local charities,” James says. “We host annual golf days and recent fundraisers have included raising funds for the North West Air Ambulance service and Ronald McDonald House which enable families to stay close by their children when undergoing hospital treatment.”
Dedication to quality is key to the business growth and success of James Alpe Ltd: “We have been fortunate to have received a host of awards in recognition of what we do,” says James.
In the last year this has included the Ribble Valley Business Awards for the Large Business of the Year and an APB British Body Shop Award for Jaguar Land Rover along with the Fastest Growing Single Site Bodyshop and the Central Region Bodyshop of the Year. James has also won an ABP Award as an industry influencer.
With continual new initiatives and a focus to never stand still, James Alpe and his team have developed a professional reputation which goes beyond repairs, and they are renowned specialists in vehicle conversions and bespoke commercial vehicle fit outs. They understand fleet conversions, police vehicles, welfare vehicles, camera vehicles, dog vehicles, animal transportation, workshop vehicles, roadside assistance vehicles, van racking systems, seating, tracking and much more.
“Those specialist skills are key to the success of the business and it’s something we continue to build on. As we move forward, we do more and more complex repairs from all over the country – things that other companies can’t or are unwilling to undertake. We strive to continually develop our work provider relationships and are confident in the skills of our team.”