Duo to close manufacturing business after 33 years

Chris Rush and Gary Smith of Pro-Fab Norwich with a coffee van they constructed in 1995

Chris Rush and Gary Smith of Pro-Fab with a coffee van they constructed in 1995 - Credit: Pro-Fab

A pair of welders who have been friends since the age of 17 have announced they are closing their metal specialist business to retire. 

Pro-Fab has been trading in the Sweet Briar Road industrial estate for more than three decades.

And although business partners Gary Smith and Chris Rush, both 61, brought their wives into the business they say they've spent more time with each other, 

The duo have known each other since they were 17, meeting during their training through Norwich City College before going their separate ways and reuniting to start the business years later.

Chris Rush in Pro-Fab's Norwich workshop in Sweet Briar Road Industrial Estate

Chris Rush in Pro-Fab's Norwich workshop in Sweet Briar Road Industrial Estate - Credit: Pro-Fab

Gary said: "We've had a great partnership. We've done a lot of site work in that time and we've had some laughs.

"When we first started up we spent more time together than we did with our wives. 

"From 6am in the morning until 10pm at night, we were working. We were 29 when we set up the business, it's been a long time. We both had very young families at the time."

Gary Smith at Pro-Fab's Norwich office in Sweet Briar Road Industrial Estate

Gary Smith at Pro-Fab's Norwich office in Sweet Briar Road Industrial Estate - Credit: Pro-Fab

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Both Norwich boys through and through, the duo currently employ three staff who are going on to businesses in the same industry across the city.

Gary added: "People say that there's a lot of hard work that goes into starting a business, but you also need a lot of luck.

"I always say that we were lucky but my wife says we worked hard. It's about building those relationships up with our staff and clients.

"Our employee  Mike Kemp has been with us for 30 years - you'd hope you're doing something right for him to want to be here that long."

Gary Smith of Pro-Fab Norwich, which will close after 33 years trading in February

Gary Smith of Pro-Fab in Norwich, which will close after 33 years trading in February - Credit: Pro-Fab

Pro-Fab's closure is set for the end of February, where they will sell off their specialist equipment and wind down operations - the same time that the business will celebrate 33 years in Norwich.

He added: "I just want to thank our customers for their business over the years.

"Without them, we haven't got a business. We've got loyal customers - of 20 or 25 years - that have become good friends and get on well with.

"We've been part of Norwich's history for 33 years and we're proud of that, but everything has to come to an end at some time."