When Jim Spencer decided to sell his seven-bedroom house in Freshfield, his daughters wanted to help him find an apartment nearby that would be ideal for family visits, wining and dining and working from home.
Jim grew up in Anfield as one of seven children. When his whole street was bombed during the War, in 1941, he was evacuated to a small farm in in Denbighshire, North Wales for two years.
“The tractor didn’t exist then. It was a horse-drawn, single furrowed plough. By the end of the two years as an evacuee, living on the farm, I witnessed the transfer from horse-drawn ploughs to tractors. I enjoyed school and I enjoyed rides on the tractor. It was a novelty.”
Soon after the war ended, he began his business career.
“I’ve been my own boss since I was 15 years of age. I’ve never been employed by anybody else ever. It’s in my heritage. My grandparents ran a small business all their lives. I started from humble beginnings as a rag & bone merchant and developed that into a recycling business.
“We collected jam jars, rabbit skins, a whole lot of obscure things by today’s standards. My mother and father were in the ‘recycling business’ long before it was given that posh title! I suppose, looking back, I have to say, that humble start in life gave me a lot of encouragement to want to understand the recycling business more.
“At one point we were selling copper, brass and lead to ingot makers in the Midlands and selling pure wool, stripped from old suits and coats, to the mills in Yorkshire. Later we were shipping tonnes of scrap iron and steel on cargo ships to Japan. I ran a small business and grew it into a number of businesses that just grew and grew.
“We were steel stockholders next. We were the UK’s biggest specialist in big beams and heavy columns which were used to build oil rigs in the North Sea. We owned warehouses through stocking this steel so eventually, when the steel stockholding eased back slightly, we were already well placed to move into warehousing and commercial property.
“The last business we had, employed around 75 people and had a £150m portfolio of industrial estates. We made £45m profit in 2006. The business we have now is a break away from that.”
Now approaching his 86th birthday, Jim Spencer still enjoys working five days a week, running his business with his youngest daughter Katy.
“I try very hard to be a good businessman. I love working. I’m planning to be around for quite a while yet. I’m not in any hurry to retire.
“We own and manage 50,000sq ft units in industrial estates, about the size of a supermarket. At this moment in time it’s particularly busy as the high street is moving to online shopping. We let units to retailers so they can continue their businesses that they can no longer afford to operate on the high street.”
Having moved into The Sailings at the end of July 2020, Jim has started to enjoy the flexibility of working from home on some afternoons.
“I work five days a week, starting each day at 9 o’clock or so in the office and then sometimes work from home in the afternoon. It’s just lovely. I’ve got a three-bedroom apartment. The biggest is the main bedroom and two of the rooms I’ve converted into a study and a library, so it’s also very good for working from home. I’m much more flexible now than before.
“Katy found this beautiful fourth floor apartment (they call it the third floor, but I call it the fourth floor simply because there are three floors below my apartment). My lounge has an eight-seater suite and it’s positioned well in relation to the kitchen so I can ‘dine and wine’.”
Jim can also wine and dine in the elegant, table-service restaurant at The Sailings, which provides delicious, freshly-prepared lunchtime meals. When the UK lockdown meant that the restaurant had to temporarily close, the catering team continued to create and deliver delicious, cooked meals via waitress service to Homeowners’ apartments. Now, the restaurant has reopened for exclusive use by Homeowners until it is safe for them to invite outside guests to join them again. In the meantime, Jim has been enjoying getting to know some of his neighbours in both the restaurant and the Homeowners’ lounge.
“I take great pleasure in introducing myself and meeting the other Homeowners. There’s a mixture of very interesting people including one or two retired headmasters and a whole range of people, all very interesting to talk to.”
There are also a number of social activities on offer at The Sailings, all of which have been adapted to maintain social distancing and keep Homeowners safe. There’s a weekly movie night, which is held on a big screen in the restaurant, a weekly quiz night and a regular book club.
On warmer days and evenings Jim has enjoyed making the most of his balcony, which overlooks the landscaped gardens and summer house at The Sailings.
“I have a beautiful wrap-around balcony and it’s truly wonderful. The apartment, as far as I’m concerned is the best apartment in the whole of Southport and Churchtown. It’s absolutely marvellous. It’s really luxurious.
“I’m in the final throws of finishing the decoration, we’ve ordered the drapes, we’ve ordered light fittings, we’ve installed all the furniture pretty well. I love every minute of it here.”
With four daughters and 11 grandchildren, Jim is a family man as well as a businessman.
“I love my kids. I’ve always enjoyed my children. With my first marriage we had three children, and then I’ve been divorced and married again. Now I have 11 grandchildren. The youngest is about 15-16 months now. All of them are wonderful.”
When Jim and his daughters started looking for an apartment, they wanted to find one close to them.
“Jane and Katy were each trying to find a place that they thought would suit me. We saw one or two other developments in and around Southport and Churchtown but the one we bought is very close to Katy.
“My other daughters live in Formby so either they pick me up and drop me off or I can get a taxi to visit them. I rather like an evening meal out. Dining and wining is my favourite hobby. I don’t go to one particular place. I enjoy a variety of food and having a pleasant evening meal.”
Some of his grandchildren have already been to visit Jim at The Sailings and those that haven’t are hoping to visit soon.
“I’m looking forward to having all of my children and grandchildren come for a meal in the restaurant here at The Sailings. I would be delighted to take them all for dinner at their Grandad’s Five Star hotel. That’s what we refer to it as! The whole operation here is wonderful.”