THREE months ago company chairman Ian Gray promised to get rid of the bullying culture at Smallbone of Devizes after the firm was saved from closure by a New York billionaire.

Mr Gray was full of smiles when he hosted a visit by Devizes MP Claire Perry on Friday.

After the tour he told the Gazette: "The atmosphere here now is so much more relaxed. I think it is important for the staff to feel valued and an integral part of what we do. When I first came it is true there was a culture of bullying.

"But now people feel able to speak to any of us. I am in Devizes at least one day a week and I have got to know all of the staff. They are what make our product great. The other Friday I just decided we would finish early and offer all of our staff a drink."

Mr Gray, whose career has included a spell as chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur, running a talent agency and as a trouble shooter for a large NHS Trust, speaks to new owner Gary Barnett on a regular basis.

He said: "He loves the product and wants to be involved which considering how many other projects he has on the go is pretty incredible. He always returns my phone calls straight away."

The new boss who also owns Extell Development, one of New York's most successful property companies, said at the time of the take-over: "Having deeply admired the company for many years, I was so keen to take this great opportunity to acquire these unique brands.

"Over the past 10 years, I have had the pleasure of working with Smallbone of Devizes on many projects such as our One57 development in Manhattan and was struck by its incredible design and making. It is rare to find this level of quality."

Mr Gray said that Smallbones was now back where it used to be as the premium brand for kitchens in the UK and with few rivals even in the USA. A number of clients pay up to £250,000 for a kitchen and the showrooms in Devizes and London are to undergo major changes to show the furniture to its full advantage.

In New York the firm mainly works on luxury apartment block developments and Mr Gray is keen to tap into this market in the UK.

The company, which employs 115 people on the shop floor in Devizes and has a total staff of around 250, has sold its London office and has made Devizes its headquarters. The old name of Canburg is gone to be replaced by SMWF to represent Smallbones and Mark Wilkinson.

Mr Gray said: "The only problem now is that people call us Smurfs but it could be worse."