One of the UK’s oldest garden centres, California Gardens at Howden, near Goole, has been sold for £1.5m to two local businessmen who plan to invest over £1m in a new restaurant and other upgrades to the 4-acre site.

California Gardens, which has been owned by the Hall family since 1879, has been sold by Leeds-based commercial property estate agent Ernest Wilson to local entrepreneurs Cameron Holroyd and Rob Hardcastle. Mr Hardcastle is the owner of several East Yorkshire landscaping and horticultural businesses, including Ellerker Lodge Garden Centre near Brough, and employs more than 75 people in the region.

The new owners plan to carry out a £1m upgrade to California Gardens, including developing a 250-cover restaurant, and will create 15 new jobs this spring, increasing the garden centre’s 25-strong workforce to 40.

“California Gardens is very well known by everyone in the area and we’re thrilled to have bought an important piece of local history, which has been in the care of successive generations of the Hall family for over 140 years,” said Mr Hardcastle.

“Our aim is now to make garden centre even better, with a fantastic range of plants and garden accessories and an extension and upgrade of the café, which we have renamed the Olive Tree. We’re currently getting ready for the café’s reopening on 12 April and later this year plan to extend the space so that it seats 250 people and becomes a full restaurant, serving great home-cooked meals.”

With the spring and summer seasons expected to be particularly busy this year as Government lockdown restrictions ease, California Gardens is currently recruiting for 15 new staff. “We are looking for people to fill a variety of roles, from plantsmen to retail staff, and it’s fantastic to be able to offer something positive for the community in the current difficult employment situation,” added Mr Hardcastle.

Michael Peel, sales manager at Ernest Wilson, said: “California Gardens is a great example of a business gaining a new lease of life under new, professional ownership. The Hall family were looking to retire but very keen to ensure their historic family business went to the right buyer. Rob and his experienced team have an ambitious, sustainable strategy to take this local landmark from strength to strength.”

He added: “As we enter a new post-Covid economic landscape Ernest Wilson are seeing a huge appetite from potential buyers looking for opportunities to acquire viable small businesses. In the current market demand is far outstripping supply and for business owners it’s certainly a great time to consider selling.”

Acquired by property consultant Eddisons in 2019 Ernest Wilson was founded in 1956 and specialises in buying and selling hundreds of small businesses every year, from fish and chip shops to convenience stores and hotels. It has sold businesses worth more than £21m of since the start of the pandemic.