From £7 a day to £9.4 million a year -- the demolition business that has smashed it

Demolition experts Total Reclaims at work.
Demolition experts Total Reclaims at work.

The men behind a family-run demolition and reclamation business, based in Hucknall town centre, can remember the days when they were earning the paltry sum of just £7 per day.

Now, Total Reclaims boasts an annual turnover of £9.4 million and rising, so no wonder they are in the mood to celebrate the company’s 25th year of trading.

An example of the work carried out by Total Reclaims.

An example of the work carried out by Total Reclaims.

From its humble beginnings, Total Reclaims forged such a reputation for the quality of its work that it became responsible for transforming large swathes of the Nottingham city skyline over the years, demolishing many key landmarks to make way for new developments.

It has a team of 80 staff, a head office spanning more than 7,000 square feet at the Baker Brook Industrial Estate on Wigwam Lane, and ambitions to future-proof the firm well into its 50th year.

It is all a world away from when operations were started by the late Melvyn Cross 25 years ago in what was just a portable classroom.

His son, also Melvyn, who is now the joint owner, recalled: “My brother Mark and I grew up on building sites with my dad.

Melvyn Cross junior, one of the joint owners of the company.

Melvyn Cross junior, one of the joint owners of the company.

“One of my earliest memories was cleaning bricks, when I was only seven years old, at the old goods yard opposite Nottingham train station. We used to make £7 for a pack of 400 bricks!

“When my dad, Mark and myself started the business back in 1993, it was a no-brainer because it was all we had ever known. Later down the line, our eldest brother, Gary, also joined us.”

Over the years, Total Reclaims has worked on numerous iconic projects in Nottingham, from deconstructing the old Odeon cinema on Angel Row to demolishing 80 premises to make way for the NET tram network.

In more recent times, the firm has knocked down the Lenton flats and is currently clearing the site of Imperial Tobacco on Triumph Road for Nottingham University.

The late Melvyn Cross senior, who founded Total Reclaims back in 1993.

The late Melvyn Cross senior, who founded Total Reclaims back in 1993.

Joint owner Mark Cross said: “The early days of the business were hugely entertaining, and we still reminisce about some of the amusing things that have happened to us along the way.

“For instance, it wasn’t unusual for us to park our cars first thing in the morning and return to find a custom-made moat around them, created by one of the bulldozers on site!”

Melvyn also remembers the time the company demolished a jewellery shop on Alfreton Road in Nottingham. “In the basement, we found more than £2,000 in old £1 notes!” he said.

“And on another job, at an old trophy factory in Basford, we found hundreds of brand new trophies, so we donated them to local schools. In the end, people started selling them on eBay, so we had to stop giving them away!”

Total Reclaims prides itself on its family values, to such an extent that more than 40 family members, including their wives and children, are now employed. Mark’s own children, Ewan, Jamie and Maisie, have recently joined the team.

However, Melvyn was keen to pay tribute to all the staff, stressing the importance of their longevity with the firm. He said: “They are a key bunch of people who constantly drive the business to the best it can be.

“We take on people as apprentices and nurture them. This is proven by our longest-serving member of staff, Phil Richards, who has been with Total Reclaims from the beginning when he was just a 16-year-old schoolboy.”

The Crosses are confident that, as the firm looks back on its 25-year history, it can also look forward with huge optimism.

Melvyn said: “The early days were all about learning the ropes and dealing with hurdles along the way, but today, the operation has to run with military precision, especially with changes in health and safety legislation.

“The future for Total Reclaims looks extremely bright indeed. The company now sees a turnover of £9.4 million on the demolition side, while our sister company, Total Aggregates, turns over £12 million.

“It is also expected that the business will be increasing its staff levels by a further five per cent by the end of the year and should reach more than £12 million turnover on the demolition side.

“We look forward to seeing what the next 25 years will bring.”