AN historic firm that was rescued from administration last year is booming and set to double its staff, bosses said.

Cherry Tree Machines in Gorse Street, Blackburn, which manufactures and distributes industrial and commercial laundry equipment, went into administration a year ago, plunging its future into doubt.

But the company, established in 1880, has been taken over by Chelmsford-based R and R Laundry Equipment and has started to experience an upturn in its fortunes.

The firm, which had 250 staff at its peak in the mid-1960s, now has a staff of nine and works with five sub-contractors.

But chief executive Bob Mills said the firm planned to double that figure within the next 18 months.

Mr Mills said: “The new owners have a long history within the laundry industry and are now looking to strengthen their sales across the UK.

“With money to invest in Cherry Tree Machines they have regained any lost ground, have introduced new ranges of commercial machinery and a small semi-professional range ideal for use in care and nursing homes, hotels, housing associations and launderettes.

“Orders for remanufactured original Cherry Tree machinery is buoyant.

Mr Mills said the firm had plans for rapid growth within the next three years by moving into other markets selling smaller, commercial eco-friendly machines which use 40 per cent less water and 30 per cent less energy.

Mr Mills said: “The market is tough in certain segments, especially the heavy industrial sector mainly because of the volume of new machine sales expected, but increasing the range we offer has overcome this.

“Export is one area of interest and we have had a lot of contact from companies overseas looking at our products.

“Recent market research has shown us that there are new areas in which I feel we can achieve growth through direct marketing activities aimed at developing opportunities within a 50 mile radius of Blackburn.

“I feel with forward thinking and giving a good customer service coupled with years of experience, the company’s future is bright.

“Many customers have already returned and sales have increased surpassing previous levels.”