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In the urban-lore of the town, Queensferry Motor Auctions is to Station Road, what Harrods is to London's Knightsbridge! There can be few better examples of how incomers to North Wales have benefited their respective, adopted community than that of Antonio Bernie. His relationship and impact on Queensferry and its townsfolk endures to the present day.
This video is a unique oral-history. It's an interview by John Butler, with Probo Bernie, a Queensferry businessman. It tells of how his father, as a young man seeking work, took leave of humble origins in Northern Italy and traveled to Wrexham, North Wales where a job had been arranged for him by a sympathetic compatriot.
The story commences with Probo introducing some early-years photographs from the family archives. Moving to the immediate post-war period, we learn that North Wales was entering an exciting period of change and opportunity; particularly so for the expanding townships that line the banks of the river Dee estuary. Established local industries, based on textiles, steel-making and aircraft production were burgeoning -and paying high-wages to a work-force that had earned a reputation for skills-diversity and dependability. Probo's father was ready for the challenge.
The senior Bernie accurately foresaw the market for personal motor-transport and initiated a business-model that responded to the demand. It was an immediate success with ordinary people.
As the eldest son, family responsibilities and expectations that would ensure continuity of the firm were made clear to Probo Bernie. We hear him sensitively reflect on his own development, that which he learned from his father and from his observations of other successful people.
Probo explains how, with a little encouragement and support from customer-friends, his father developed his understanding of the emergent consumer market. His efforts resulted in an innovative, customer-focused enterprise that gave employment to many in Queensferry and surrounding communities. Although nowadays under new ownership & management, the Station Road site continues as a thriving concern
Queensferry Motor Auctions, as originated in Station Road by Mr A Bernie from the end of the second world-war, was a business, with impact that is acknowledged throughout the retail motor industry. In this interview, the close relationship between father and son with fond memories of wisdom, business integrity and ingenuity make for an inspiring tale.
This item is part of a wider community-volunteer, archive project, "A Walk Through Queensferry". An attempt to capture for the record, something of the essence of a modest North Wales border town in the days when its main-street was both a diverse shopping parade and principal connecting highway.
00;48 Probo Bernie introduces archive photos of various aspects of the family business.
04:33 The auction-desk staff. Refers to auction clerk, Joyce Devenport
05:20 New-car franchises
06:05 Father's sponsorship by Sidoli's -a Shrewsbury fast-food/ ice-cream firm
07:22 Ice-cream van at Chester racecourse
08:05 Move into second hand cars
08:27 Detail on setting up/adapting the premises in Queensferry.
09:30 The benefit to trading of the Station Road, Queensferry location
10:50 The Bernie bus to bring customers from Anglesey:
11:50 Queensferry location relationship to John Summers workforce
“They all bought cars!”
12:15 PB's early years with the firm
13:03 Fellow employees were mainly ex-military -and what it did for PB
13:42 Origins of Antonio Bernie, Emilia Romagna, Italy
15:28 The Wrexham connection and the Northern Apennines town of Bardi
16:15 Return to Italy to serve in Great War
17:17 Early experience in business, joint venture with a friend collecting scrap metal
18:34 New scrap/car business in Oakenholt/Flint
19:09 The customer/Police-Inspector friend -papers to sign. British Nationality.
21:05 Charisma & respect
21:40 Minimal education (as a child) in Italy -and no regrets!
23:02 Business acumen & wisdom
23:50 War-time business austerity. Customer returns
25:12 Understanding the business process. The auction. Outsider-trading
25:26 Fellow traders (from North-Wales) border route significance of Queensferry 28:26 A reputation of trust. Explanation of the Bernie “USP” and the “money-back” guarantee.
30:40 The atmosphere/excitement of the auction -conditions of sale
32:18 Customers traveling long distance. Extensive catchment area (North/South Ireland)
33:50 Function of a public-auction in establishing real-market values of used cars
33:47 Opening of the Queensferry bypass and contemporary concerns/consequences
34:58 Acquiring brands/agencies/franchises Ford/Austin/Rover/Triumph/Jaguar/Range- Rover. The horse-racing connection!
36:52 Customer demographic and the advantage of having multiple agencies.
38:55 PB''s decision to forego higher-education & join the family firm. The father's added incentive
41:12 PB's retrospective reflections.
44:33 Summary
46:36 End

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