Waitrose Caversham 184 opened on 27.11.1984.
The following article appeared in the Partnership in-house magazine at the time.
Caversham is a Thames-side village on the northern outskirts of Reading. It is a pleasant, quiet little place with a pretty early nineteenth century river bridge.
The new Waitrose supermarket is, unusually, a three-storey building. It is built of attractive Kentish bricks in pink, orange, and slate blue. The Partners’ Dining Room and Rest Room have a ‘crows’ nest’ air to them, being on the third floor with a view across trees to the river.
Branch Manager Mr Davies joined the Partnership in 1970 as Provisions Manager, Witney branch, where he subsequently managed the Fruit and Vegetable department. Eighteen months later he moved to Wallingford, where he was Grocery Manager, then returned to Witney as Deputy Branch Manager.
‘Within two years and eleven months of joining the Partnership, I was a Branch manager, at Wallingford’, said Mr Davies. ‘I spent four years there and followed that with seven years at Henley. The decision to join Waitrose is one I have never regretted. My son is now a full time assistant at Wallingford and is beginning to build his own career with the Partnership.’
Mr Davies said there had been well over 1000 applications from people wishing to work in the new branch including some from other Waitrose supermarkets. ‘We have Partners here who have come from Henley, Woodley, Goldsworth Park, Wallingford and Seven Oaks. We even have one young man from Hall Green in Birmingham’. The new branch will have 144 people working in it, including 50 weekend juniors.
It seems the residents of Caversham have up to now have been travelling into Reading for most of their food shopping.
‘We are hoping they will now stay put and shop locally,’ said Mr Davies. ‘There are many people living at this end of town in places such as Sonning-on-Thames and Mapledurham as well as Caversham itself and Caversham Park village.
Reg of the Architects Department added that the Partnership’s plans to build a supermarket in Caversham, to be a part of St Martin’s Precinct, had received a lot of support from local traders.
‘One reason is that people in Caversham considered their village had lost its guts when The Butts centre in Reading opened. They want their local centre back.’
Deputy Branch Manager Michael gained his first Assistant Branch Managership at Birch Hill in 1981, then was temporarily at Goldsworth Park.
‘I missed seeing the advertisement for Caversham appointment, but someone else pointed it out to me,‘ he said. He has not had to move house as he lives locally.
‘Caversham is quite villagey,’ he commented, ‘and it does have a separate identity from that of Reading. People will say ‘I come from Caversham,’ and be quite proud of the fact.’
Assistant Branch Manager Barbara has found it ‘Very challenging and exciting being in on a branch opening. It is nice because everyone is new together.’ She began work as a provision’s assistant in Henley where she then lived. ‘I went to Brownsea Island for two seasons as a waitress and started my career proper at Waitrose Hall Green,’ said Barbara. She obtained her first job as a Section Manager at Marlborough when the branch opened and subsequently worked in Sevenoaks, another new branch.
‘I have had to move house each time but that does not bother me. I now live two minutes from here. When you walk round Caversham, you see the character of the place. It’s lovely down by the river, for instance”.
Meat Manager, Fred, who has lived locally for some time and knows the area well, said ‘It will be interesting to see what effect the opening of Waitrose will have on the character of Caversham.’
Inside, the new supermarket is designed on the modern Waitrose plan, with dry goods in the central area and refrigerated cabinets around the walls. It includes Ambassador frozen food cupboards with doors, from which customers can serve themselves with ready meals, desserts and so on. There are service counters for fish, meat, patisserie and delicatessen, with the Waitrose family tiles in blue, white and brown. There is also a very large fruit and vegetables section, and a wine department with an attractive dark green décor.
Eleven years ago, the present Waitrose site was a derelict cinema. It is an unusual development, because it incorporates a sports complex, with squash courts, gymnasium, and a snooker room. The Partnership holds the lease for the sports complex, but it is quite separate from Waitrose itself and although it shares the building, it will operate as a private club. Included in the development, which was designed and built by Partnership architects, are an adult education centre and a health centre. These are sited across the road from the supermarket building.
‘We had to knock part of the site down to get the road through’, said Reg. ‘The dental clinic was here, and we had to move it over the road. We got quite deeply involved with the local health authority.’ He also explained that on the first floor of the Waitrose building there are 5,500n square foot of office space which are not owned by the Partnership. The centre complex is to be known as the Caversham Centre and includes the St Martin’s Precinct and two amalgamated car parks which have been improved by the addition of newly planted trees.
Waitrose architect Bryan pointed out that the newest branch is typical of this generation of supermarkets.
‘There’s a design manual for Waitrose and people like Reg have the job of interpreting it for each individual site.’
Some Partners in the supermarket spared a few moments to talk. Martin from Hall Green in Birmingham is Assistant Provisions Manager ‘ I saw this job advertised in the Chronicle and thought it would be a good experience to work in a new branch,’ he said. ‘The shop itself is really nice and it has been interesting to see it being built’.
Denise and Linda of the grocery division are both new to Waitrose. ‘There is more to learn than I realised,’ said Denise, ‘but I find everyone is very helpful.’
Fruit and Vegetable Supervisor, Sandra, who has worked for Waitrose B and F groups since 1969, explained she was there as back-up.
‘It is very difficult, even for an experienced fruit and vegetables manager, to open a new branch. Mine is a supportive role,’ she said. ‘It is up to me to make sure that the standard is as high as possible. Take ticketing for example: we could be breaking the law without realising it’. Sandra will be at Caversham for the first week or so, helping the department to run smoothly.
The new Waitrose branch will be immediately represented on the central council. Wines Manager Tom, who is building a second career having worked with the Retail Trading Standards Association, is on the Dinner Committee and the Committee for Pay and Allowances.
‘This is going to save me £10 a month in travelling,’ a delighted customer said as she wheeled a groaning trolley out of Waitrose Caversham half an hour after it opened. Later in the day, the Mayor and Mayoress of Reading were shown round the new supermarket by Operations Manager, Group F, Mr Bishop and Branch Manager Mr Davies.
Gazette Vol 66 No 44