UP CLOSE IN MALDON DISTRICT: Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner Stewart tells of his passion for Koi

  Posted: 10.06.21 at 08:00 by The Editor

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Everyone is finding it tough at the moment and wants life to get back to normal.

We will be profiling local independent businesses regularly over the coming weeks in a feature called UP CLOSE IN MALDON DISTRICT to help showcase our town centre and village traders. By spending locally, you help support local jobs - and so build our communities back stronger. If you have a business in Maldon district and would like you business featured in one of our UP CLOSE articles, please just get in touch by emailing: [email protected]

This week we talk to Stewart Howells, owner of CN Koi, based at Claremont Garden Centre in Woodham Mortimer and whose business is yet another example of all the great expertise available locally.

A PASSION for your work is one of the key things that drives success and that’s definitely something that’s obvious when Nub News catches up with Stewart Howells at CN-Koi.

Stewart is the owner of CN Koi, which has been up and running at Claremont Garden Centre in Bryants Lane, Southend Road, Woodham Mortimer, since Good Friday. Yet it’s not a business that’s new to Stewart, who aside from having more than 40 years of experience of working with Koi Carp and pond builds, won a prestigious Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal in 2009 for Bonsai, too.

As with many businesses linked to gardens and gardening, the initial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and the first lockdown then led to a huge increase in interest and demand as things ‘unlocked’ last summer and Stewart, who lives in Cold Norton with wife Dawn, soon realised that running his business from home was no longer practical.

“Sales have been boosted by about 80 per cent as a result of the extra interest following the pandemic,” Stewart explains, “and I think it’s because of the impact the fish have on the state of mind and wellbeing – Koi are very relaxing to look at and appreciate.

“I am always fascinated by just how beautiful they are and by the Japanese culture, too.”

The boost to business led to him talking to the owners of the garden centre about setting up there. Claremont now offers a small selection of pond plants, complementing Stewart’s business and offering something extra to the customers who visit to see and find out more about the immaculately kept Koi.

Dawn says: “Everyone always comments on how beautifully the Koi are kept and how healthy they look.

“It’s an absolute passion for Stewart,” she adds proudly.

Stewart’s business includes pond builds and any form of landscaping from Mediterranean to, of course, Japanese. He is qualified in fish diagnostics and disease, can carry out water quality testing and prescribe the correct medication or treatment for Koi when needed. He makes life easier for Koi owners by visiting their pond and treating the Koi, reducing the stress levels of the Koi by preventing a visit to a vet.

He quarantines the Koi for a minimum of eight weeks, with the fish from five to thirty-nine inches when he buys them.

“Concentration of pigment to achieve deep and uniform colour, clear and distinct patterns and size and presence are all important with Koi,” Stewart says, “and they have to achieve all three qualities to be high quality Koi.”

The most expensive Koi ever sold was bought for £1.5 million dollars.

However, as well as buying good quality Koi, people who are starting out with the hobby also need to know what is necessary to help keep the Koi healthy.

CN Koi at Claremont Garden Centre

For Stewart, taking the time to provide expert help and advice is key to reputation and success.

He adds: “People can buy fish and not know that they must have the filters correctly set up first, or they can have natural ponds. Customers need expert advice and they can come in for a chat so that they understand what’s involved and what they would need if they want to keep Koi, too.”

The Keep it Local campaign is being launched through Maldon District Council’s Sense of Place initiative, with funding from the Magnox Decommissioning Fund.

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