Join Merlin McCormack, the mastermind behind Duke of London, as he shares his knowledge, tips and tricks for building a successful business. So you don’t go hungry, Rye by the Water will serve a classic menu of its favourite dishes.
If you’re local to Brentford, you’ll have heard of Merlin McCormack. In fact, with a number of successful businesses under his belt, you can’t miss him. He bought and sold his first car when he was just 11, opened his first car showroom at 19 and is now proprietor of Duke of London, a classic car hub for car and motorcycle collectors and enthusiasts alike. Now, he’s also venturing into new fields of business and owns a range of classic food and drink trucks serving west Londoners. This summer, he’s upping the ante on his car showroom with the opening of The Factory, an impressive 51,000 sq ft warehouse with space for events, workshops and more. Scroll down to read more about our interview with the Duke.
Having bought and sold your first car at 11, it’s clear that cars are your first love. How did you go about turning your passion into a successful business?
“It’s been a labour of love, to say the least. I came out of school, having traded cars while I was there and just continued. I got to the point where we needed our own showroom and that just formalised Duke of London as a proper business. We went from a seven-car showroom to a twenty-car showroom.”
Duke of London has grown beyond the show room in recent years, how do you discover new areas for expansion?
“The events side of things is really exciting to me, we’ve got a couple of catering businesses that I’ve taken a hand in. We’ve got a lot going on but it all lends itself to what we’re trying to do here in Brentford, by way of having a place where people can come and hang out with their cars and also for us to be able to host events away from the automotive world, like art shows.”
Brentford is obviously at the heart of your business, what does working in the local area mean to you?
“I just love the history of the place. There’s so much that has been here from an industry point of view over the previous hundreds of years that hasn’t been heralded for such a long time. We’d love to do our bit to revive what was once a thriving corner of London, that now, no one’s really heard of. We’re on the bit where the Grand Union canal meets the Thames, so it really was a pocket of commerce. For the time being but it’s about just making the most of glorifying Brentford.”
What sort of space will The Factory be once it’s opened?
“It’s a complete mix. We’ve got our classic car restoration business, where we restore and service all manner of classic cars. We’ve then got the classic car showroom, and detailing suite where we paint, protect and ceramic coat cars of all eras. Then, within that, we’ve got a couple of side businesses, including two catering businesses that are based on site, so we’re bringing quite a lot of employment to the area. Next, we’ll be opening a café space with some food later in the summer that will serve the community.”
You’re hosting a start-up workshop on the 11th July. What’s your best piece of advice for anyone that is interested in venturing into business?
“I think you’ve just got to have balls and be relentless. Keep persevering, even if there are knock backs – it makes you really value when things start to go to plan. A lot of my generation are used to having things handed to them on a plate and I think quite a lot of people go through the conventional route of university and into an office job. Going out on your own, you definitely need thick skin and you’ve got to be prepared to really work for what you believe in. I wouldn’t bother starting a business unless you yourself believe in it or the product. Getting into anything you think will just make you money isn’t going to happen, you need that energy to convey across to your customers and the passion you have for your product. Cars have been my passion for years and years, it’s definitely what I live and breathe.”
With so much happening in Brentford, where do you see it in five years?
“In five years? Hopefully we’ll still be here for a start, because we love it. Beyond that, the way I see Brentford is like a blank canvas. There are amazing people and amazing projects going on. With the scale of the development, there’s certainly scope to build a new town around what’s crumbled from yesteryear. I think it’s quite exciting and as crazy as it may sound, I’m already seeing a new crowd in the local pubs, there’s new businesses and creative spaces popping up left, right and centre. People are starting to find out about it – it’s cool that it’s finally getting some recognition.”
For outsiders to Brentford, what can visitors expect?
“I think it’s going to be a really cool, creative place. There’s going to be so much going on, both for people in the car world and the people in the art world. With these new food and drink spaces, there’s even more of a reason for people to venture away and come to Brentford.”