Co-op staff celebrate the end of an era

Tuesday, 20th February 2018

AFTER the Wilnecote Co-op store closed its doors back in January, the staff from the store celebrated the end of an era at the weekend; and they were joined by some of the original staff!

The ex-employees, some who were there at the end, and even some there at the beginning gathered at the Pip club in Fazeley on Saturday 17 February and Tamworth Informed were there to celebrate with the staff.

Some of the staff present who were presented awards and mementoes for being there throughout the years included Tom Terry, the first Manager of the superstore; Mike Shingleton and Tony Bullock, two of the original Department Managers; Neil Styrine, the last manager when the store closed and Lucia Clifton, a Department Manager and her son Josh.

After over 37 years of trading, the last customers were served and the staff were ushered out at 4 pm on Saturday 20 January.

At the time the store closed, one of the members of staff spoke to us about her plans to memorialise some of the stories from her days at the Co-op in a small book.

On hearing of her plans, and knowing what a big part the co-op store has played in many peoples lives, Tamworth Informed have offered their services and also hope to assist in making a short documentary about the life of the store.

At the time of initially speaking to us, she asked to remain anonymous to our readers as the senior managers within the company were not being ‘co-operative’ and refused to be involved in interviews or filming.

We can now reveal the staff member as Bev Tucker, and this is what she has to say about her time at the Co-op:

“Well, what can I say about the Co-op Superstore? It’s been in Tamworth for over 37 years and, sadly, it’s time has come to close.

“It was on Tuesday 3rd June 1980, at 10.00 am that the doors opened to the public and, being the first Superstore in the town, there was great excitement at the launch. It was inspirational to others that have followed since.

“The first manager at the store was Mr Tom Terry; he and his department managers were very forward thinking and went far and wide to study shopping habits. They were not afraid to try out new things at Tamworth; they were all so committed to their work that it wasn’t like work to them. It was an exciting new approach to shopping that hadn’t been tried in this town before. It was the first store in Tamworth to have a video library – whatever happened to them?

“Freezer events were a big thing and it was a big risk by management to reduce prices on not just frozen goods but also TVs etc. Thankfully, those risks paid off, as customers turned up in droves to take advantage of the great bargains on offer. Happy memories – queues at every till – there were 17 in those days! It was a great atmosphere for staff and customers alike.

“After Tom, there were a number of other managers that followed, each one putting their stamp on the store. Many people have worked there, most of whom (I hope!) have good memories of the place. There are even some who have been there from the start and, now, are there at the end -that shows real loyalty. Long friendships have been formed by staff and also some loyal customers, who are equally sad to see the closure of such an iconic landmark of the town. There have been many charity events held in the store and lots raised for good causes, so, many people have benefitted from these.

“As other big name stores arrived in Tamworth, the trade that the Co-op had enjoyed started to decrease. Even though there were concessions within the Co-op it was hard to fight off local competition. One of the longest running shops in the store was the jewellers, which occupied a place there for over 25 years – it was a much-loved shop which, sadly closed 3 years ago. The Co-op also had an optician, a florist, a carpet shop, shoe shop, and even double glazing. More recently, the Post Office has been patronised by many people and was ideally situated for everyone who used it, with easy access and good parking. Also, with the inclusion of the National Lottery a few years ago, that was a big boost for trade as well. In the early days, we also had the Co-op Bank (or Handy Bank) which was a great convenience for customers.

“With lots of social events that the staff have organised over the years, there are lots of happy memories to cherish. You could even book your holidays at Coop Travel, which was on the premises until recently. The petrol station has also been a useful facility, and, in the early days it was so busy, there were always 2 members of staff operating at each side of the kiosk to process customers quickly.

“Yes, although the Co-op’s time has come to an end on this site, there will always be the many memorable times to cherish, and funny stories to exchange; these will live on forever. There are not many stores that can stand the test of time for as long as our beloved Co-op Superstore has.

“Whatever happens in the future, the Co-op will always have a special place in many peoples’ hearts, especially mine, gone, but not forgotten…”

Anyone who has stories about the store that they wish to share can email coop.history@tamworthinformed.co.uk and we will forward them on to Bev.

Anyone wishing to still use a Co-op store can use the nearby Tamworth Co-operative Society owned stores on High Street in Dosthill or Glascote Road.  Tamworth C0-op also have a number of other stores in and around the Borough, including Bolehall, Church Street in the Town Centre, Kingsbury, Wood End, Whittington and Dordon. Tamworth Co-op is an independent co-operative that has been trading in Tamworth since 1886 – long before the supermarket at Wilnecote was built and it will hopefully be here long after its gone.