Hillmount Ards has opened its doors following a £1 million investment in transforming the site of the original Thriving Life Church into a 10,000sq ft lifestyle garden centre with the creation of 25 jobs for Newtownards in Northern Ireland.
Robin Mercer, Hillmount Ards, said: "I always promised my wife Edith that I'd open a garden centre in her home shopping town of Ards and after we opened Hillmount Bangor we began to search for a site.
"Developing Hillmount Ards has been a real labour of love for Edith, our son Alan and I, and we believe we have created a store where the local community can gather to shop and to relax over coffee, similar to the experience our customers enjoy at our sister garden centres in Bangor and Belfast. It was also important for us to ensure that some of the characteristics of the original church were retained and for Hillmount Ards to blend naturally into the surrounding countryside and neighbourhood and I am happy to say that we have achieved that."
Speaking at the official launch, Robert Adair, Mayor of Ards and North Down, said: "On behalf of Ards and North Down Borough Council I'd like to welcome Hillmount to Ards and congratulate the Mercer family on the investment and job creation that they have provided for our local area. We wish you every success with your new venture in the town."
Hillmount Ards official opening extends over Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd October with shoppers being treated to barbecue sampling and various activities across the store while browsing the Christmas Shop and 30,000 gardening products including a wide variety of plants, trees and shrubs, exquisite gifts, garden furniture, barbecues and accessories. Diners in the 55 seater The Gardener's Rest on the first floor mezzanine can relax and enjoy their meal while taking in views across north down from the unique feature window.
The Mercer family has built up an unrivalled reputation in the gardening industry locally since opening their first nursery in Castlereagh almost 80 years ago and the growth into the Newtownards area is a natural development for the family business which now employs almost 100 staff across its three sites.