Ron Bent has spent most of his life in the family business, starting work full-time when he left school at the age of 15.
Since then, his visionary approach has seen a small, specialised plant-based business evolve into the extensive and unique environment visitors enjoy today.
Current managing director Matthew Bent said: "My father has helped transform not only the Bent family business but the face of the traditional garden centre industry."
In the early 1960s, Ron, together with his brother John, bought an extra 20ha of land adjacent to the Speakman House site in Cheshire, which gave the family 24ha of land overall.
In 1966, the first shop opened and this was the beginning of Bents as we know it today.
Ron Bent quickly identified Christmas as being a potential retail opportunity and started to sell decorations wholesale in the early 1970s. This move was embraced by the industry.
In 1980, a new shop opened in the centre's current location. Ron Bent suggested a food and drinks facility, which at the time was an unknown concept, but set a new trend.
The business thrived and by 1995 underwent additional expansion. The work marked the first phase of an extensive plan, which has seen further developments including extending the nursery, where 60 per cent of Bents' plants are grown.
There has also been the opening of the Fresh Approach restaurant (now 900 covers) and the launch of the Open Skies glasshouse - the first of its kind in the UK.
During these developments, Ron Bent remained active in the industry. He was chairman of the North West HTA for two years and sat on the national committee. He was also chairman on the Garden Centre Association (GCA) in the North West and served on the national executive.
Ron and his wife Wendy travelled to international garden centre conferences and in 1998 judged the best garden centre in Australia.
Bents has won the GCA best garden centre award four times, including three times in a row.
He is now company chairman and son Matthew and Ron's three daughters run the centre. Ron is heavily involved in Bents' £10m plan for the future.
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"His down-to-earth no-nonsense approach has worked, but it is his great sense of humour and energy that I believe ensured the success of all his ambitious projects" - Sue Allen, Millbrook Garden Centre
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