Wallingford (675): Opening
Waitrose Wallingford (675) opened on 12/05/2005.
The following article appeared in the partnership’s in-house magazine The Gazette at the time.
It’s Waitrose Wallingford’s opening day and David Paul has a confession to make: he has been here before. Not just (as you would expect) in his current role as Head of Selling Operations for Waitrose Group B, but more than 30 years ago when, as a weekend assistant, he spent the first years of his Partnership career the St Martin’s Street branch.
He’s looking cheerful and there’s a buzz in the air. “This is the most spectacular branch I’ve seen and I’m proud to be here,” David explains, gesturing to the clean white lines,expanse of glass and sheer spaciousness of the surrounding selling floor.“It’s not just that the building has the ‘wow’ factor,but that it sits so comfortably in the town. Its design shows real imagination.
Located in Oxfordshire in the middle of a major conservation area with architecture dating back to the 14th century, Waitrose could easily have created its new shop in the vernacular style. Instead,it has boldly opted for a strikingly contemporary and distinctively curvaceous design. It won’t please everyone, but it has certainly got style, as Tim Perry, Construction Project Manager,Waitrose,explains. “Because of its location, the planning authorities had a considerable influence over the shape and look of this new shop,” he says. “The building materials – including the French stone – are very high quality and it has an ornate glass entrance from the car park, with another simpler one on St Martin’s Street. Inside,the shape and height of the space is definitely not what you would find in a standard Waitrose, so we have had to plan things a little differently. It’s been a high up on one wall.These make the theatre of the selling floor visible to passers-by but also bring the outside in,creating a real sense of the shop’s position at the heart of the community it serves. A focal point of the branch is the series of giant food-and-drink-themed canvasses that add colour to the huge white wall behind the checkouts,while behind the scenes there are also some unusual touches.
The Partners’ Dining Room,for example, offers a bird’s eye view of the shop floor from its viewing gallery, while the tight loading bay boasts the largest turntable (for delivery lorries) in the business. In the car park,the site’s historic walls have been carefully preserved.
So what do the Partners think?
As the longest-serving Partner,Stella Kinsella, Supermarket Assistant, Checkouts, and a veteran of Wallingford’s original opening 33 years ago, was invited to cut the ribbon to symbolically launch branch 675.
Having shut up shop on St Martin’s Street less than 48 hours before,Waitrose Wallingford was back in business.
Jean Plevey, Supermarket Assistant, Foodservice,was delighted.
As the oldest Partner in the branch and with 27 years’ service behind her, she was sad to bid farewell to Branch 145 but predicted the “big and beautiful” new shop would be a great success.
Others agreed, pointing out that although they had “many happy memories” of their former workplace,the new shop offered a wider assortment and a more spacious environment. “The whole of Wallingford will be in to have a look around over the next few days,” predicted Chris Bailey, Section Manager, Personnel.
Food service Supermarket Assistant Ann Alder – one of the 80 new Partners recruited for the relocation – was valiantly resisting the temptations of her beautifully laid out patisserie counter with its rows of fairy cakes,chocolate cream éclairs, sponge cakes and baklava.“I worked in an office before, but I fancied a change and joined Waitrose in January,” she explained.
For Stuart Braine, Assistant Section Manager, Fresh Foods, the chance to join a company with Waitrose’s “excellent reputation” was too good to miss. “I was working in hotels, but everyone I knew from Waitrose was always telling me how good they were. I’m really enjoying it.” Marion Hill said “We were regular customers at the old store, but because it didn’t have the whole range we sometimes had to go elsewhere. Now we can do all our shopping here.”
Laura Bristow, who was shopping with her two small children, echoed that sentiment. “There were always a few things that I couldn’t get in your old branch,but I can see that this has a much larger range. I like the fact that it is so light.”
These comments were music to Jo Watson’s ears on the day she finally got her new branch.
“I came to Wallingford as Branch Manager in 2000 and we were hoping to relocate by the end of 2001, but this has been
worth the wait.The main challenge in recent months has been keeping standards high in the old branch while training
so many new Partners, but the team has been fantastic.
Our aim now is to tempt customers back from our competitors with our extended assortment (it now includes InnerCellar
wines,rotisserie chickens, self-selection patisserie and more non-food), superior service and bright new surroundings.”