In April 2002, Mark Edwards purchased the Overstrand Cottage Garden Centre from Derek Smeda and his family, and just five months later, turned what was a thriving small business into a veritable wasteland, with customers turning away in droves, and staff who are verbally beaten into submission and are forced to resign, because Edwards doesn't have the guts to fire them.
Now, this is the only time you're going to hear this, but I'm going to pay Mark Edwards a compliment. I actually think that Mark Edwards is probably quite an intelligent fellow. After all, from what I've learned, before his arrival in Overstrand, he had a thriving business in Diss, and idiots don't suddenly become good businessmen overnight.
Sadly, though, Mark Edwards seems to have his head stuffed so far up his own backside that he can't see that from day one, everything he did at the garden centre was wrong.
To me, while under the management of Derek Smeda, customers seemed to view the garden centre as a sort of old friend, someone they could go and visit once every week or so and have a nice chat with. People liked the staff, the fact that they could have a cost chat with everyone who worked there, about any subject under the sun. They enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the place. Visiting the garden centre was a pleasure. Well, it was until April 2002.
When Mark Edwards and his family took over the business, from day one, he set about dismantling everything that had been built up during the ten years of the "Smeda Regime". First to go was the relaxed atmosphere. Next, staff were not encouraged to have friendly chats with the customers. They weren't even encouraged to talk to each other. Whereas Derek Smeda wanted to employ people, Mark Edwards only wanted to employ people who were part automaton, part yes-men, people who would do his bidding no matter what.
Next to go was the excellent relationship the garden centre management always enjoyed with the customers. Edwards always seemed to regard the clientele as an inconvenience, always ordering them to seek out other members of staff whenever they needed help, unwilling to stop whatever he was doing in order to help people who were essentially lining his pockets.
In five short months, Mark Edwards totally destroyed ten years worth of blood, sweat and tears. He destroyed a highly profitable business with his very attitude.
The really sad thing is that he is so blinded by his own arrogance, he really can't see what he has done wrong. When people have tried to point out the mistakes he has made, Edwards brushes them aside, unwilling to listen to their criticism, still believing that despite his actions, despite his failures, that his way is the right way.
Five months after buying a highly successful retail business, Mark Edwards has placed that same business back on the market, convinced that the people who sold him the business lied to him about how successful it was, and unable to see that the reason the business if failing is because of his own shortcomings.
I really hope that he finds a suitable buyer very soon. It is heartbreaking to see what has happened in Overstrand. Deep down, I hope that Edwards rots for what he has done, not just to me, but to a business, to a job, that meant the world to me.