Berkhamsted 73b,117 (later 223)

Waitrose Berkhamsted was originally a Kinghams store, purchased by the Partnership in January 1961 – branch number 73b. The Gazette announced in August 1968 that it would close for a year, reopening as a supermarket. It traded at the time in four adjacent shops, two of which were interconnected. They had been a chemist, a confectioner and tobacconist, a baker and a grocer. The wine department was to continue trading, in part, in one of the shops. Prior to the alterations, staff moving from one department to another, had to go out of the front door, along the street, and in at another door. The branch number was then 117.

The manger, Mr A R Payne had begun his apprenticeship to the grocery trade in the shop in 1929 and lived above the shop for five years before that. In his early days, delivery was made by horse and cart and at week-ends the animal was put out to graze. Sometimes on a Monday, the horse would not allow himself to be caught and led back to work, so then all hands were mustered to round him up. As well as full counter service, Waitrose Berkamsted offered credit and delivery. One of Mr Payne’s skills was that of window-dressing. He had won prizes in national competitions with his window displays. At the time of the Coronation a complete model of the Coronation procession was mounted on a moving belt in the window; and in 1966 the shop was turned into a castle – with the addition of hardboard battlements and so on.

The branch reopened as a supermarket in October 1969 with 7,000 square feet of selling space, 83 Partners, including eight from the old shop. Mr A R Payne returned to his old job (he had been working in Partnership supermarkets during the closure) and he spent most of the opening morning greeting the return of the customers had served for years. The customers appeared to appreciate the transformation, as did Mrs G Fenn, who had worked in the shop since 1934 “Although the old shop was picturesque, it was also very inconvenient to work in.”

In 1996, branch 117 became branch 223 as it relocated to a site adjacent the River Bullbourne. Branch Manager, Chris Blows had held his current position since 1991: “Branch 117 was very heavily shopped, but its size put restrictions on the assortments we could carry and its parking facilities were limited, so it was vital that we moved to a larger building if we were to protect our interest in the town.” “The move will bring back the vibrance and vitality to this side of town, attracting customers not only to Waitrose but to the smaller shops in the nearby High Street.”



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