Welwyn Garden City (204) : Opening
Waitrose Welwyn Garden City opened on 12/11/1991. The following article appeared in the Partnership’s in-house magazine The Gazette at the time.
“Waitrose joins John Lewis in Welwyn Garden City.
The transformation of the former Cherry Tree pub into a brand new Waitrose store in Welwyn Garden City, just across the road from the John Lewis department store, has delighted locals. And new features introduced for the first time in the Partnership, such as chilled fruit and vegetables now weighed at the till, will make shopping at the branch quicker and easier.
Welwyn’s Branch Manager, Mr Desmond Fitzgerald, says: ”We had a large number of applications partly because of the central geographical location of the shop, and we now have an extremely strong team who are hungry for retailing knowledge.”
One of the most popular features of the new store will be the 230-space car park – many local residents complain of the lack of parking space in Welwyn. The Waitrose car park will be free for the first one and a half hours,60p for up to two hours, and £5 after that. “This should ensure a good turnover of customers,” says Mr Fitzgerald.
Partners in John Lewis Welwyn across the road have been friendly and supportive to the new recruits at Waitrose. Mr Fitzgerald says: ”The store has really extended a welcoming hand to the new boy in town. The Managing Director, General Manager and other Partners couldn’t have been more helpful. I think the two branches will mix socially a great deal. We’ve already been invited to their Christmas party!”
Features that are Partnership firsts at Welwyn include a smart new design for the wine department, and a range of chilled fruit and vegetables.
The Department Manager of fresh foods, Mr Graham Heald, explains that the fruit and vegetables are delivered in refrigerated lorries and that this, combined with the chilling in the branch, helps extend the freshness of the products.
Another innovation at Waitrose Welwyn is that fruit and veg can now be weighed at the main tills, instead of in the department. Mr Fitzgerald, who was previously Branch Manager at Buckhurst Hill, explains that the new system means cashiers have had to be trained to distinguish between the more arcane brands of vegetables, such as the difference between plantains, which many West lndian people buy for cooking; bananas; and an even smaller type of sweet banana.
”Luckily the training has been very thorough, and these tills are fairly straightforward to learn on,” says Mrs Bench.’
Mr Heald, who worked at St Ives when it opened, says: “It is part of my responsibility to ensure that Partners on the checkouts are fully trained in product recognition. It does make the job more challenging, but in general it will make people’s lives a lot easier and save time for the customer.
”Learning the different brands of apples has been one of the most difficult tasks – it’s straightforward enough to learn about Golden and Red Delicious, but many of the other brands look similar to each other, and there are seasonal varieties, too.”
Mrs Mary King, a checkouts assistant who is also a new Partner, has worked on cash tills before, but ”nothing as complicated as these”: she also found the training at different branches clear and useful.
Mrs Berlie Macdonnell, also on the checkout, first worked for the Partnership 20 years ago at Barnet, Golders Green and Temple Fortune.
“Of course Waitrose has changed and modernised,” she says.” The tills, for instance, are more sophisticated. But I’m really enjoying getting back in the swing of working for the Partnership after all these years.”
Mr Fitzgerald, who has been with the Partnership for 17 years, says: ”There has been a real atmosphere of co-operation and teamwork among Partners in mastering the new elements suchas weighing fruit and vegetables at the cash tills.”
Waitrose Welwyn is one of just a few branches to have a ”bake-off” facility at the patisserie, where bread is served fresh from the oven. This has proved very popular with customers at other stores that have the facility.
Mr Peter Carter, Department Manager, dry goods, a local resident, says he has been anticipating the opening for a long time.” I’ve been waiting in the wings for five years now,” he says. ”Years ago I used to eat in The Cherry Tree’s restaurant, and the Branch Manager’s office now occupies the spot where my table was!”
Mr Carter, who began work for the Partnership 19 years ago as a bacon-cutter in Slough, adds: “Everyone is expecting us to do extraordinarily well here, and I think we probably will. The store is in a very good location, near the A1 and in a residential area, and there is local demand for a good quality supermarket like Waitrose.”
Management team at opening
Branch Manager : Mr Desmond Fitzgerald
Department managers :
Fresh foods : Mr Graham Heald
Dry goods : Mr Peter Carter
Section managers :
Administration : Mr John Archer
Checkouts : Miss Sarah Penn
Delicatessen : Miss Melanie Hobbs
Patisserie : Mr Paul Christmas
Fruit and vegetables : Mr Stephen Bootle
Grocery : Mr Kelvin Lindsay
Meat/ fish : Miss Susan Compton
Warehouse : Mr Russell Gadsby
Provisions : Mr Michael Abrahams
Branch cook : Miss Carol Grounsell
Non food : Miss Nicola Dellow
Branch office : Mrs Yvonne Foster
Location: Bridge Road, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, AL8 6AB