Memories of Waitrose

Morning coffee on the last day of trading, L/R, Pat Bass, Laura Mitchell, Mary Harvey, Margaret O'Mally and Elaine Blatchford.
From the private collection of Laura Mitchell
Laura Mitchell with her husband Terry and the yellow rose.
From the private collection of Laura Mitchell
Mrs Spoory (assistant branch manager), with Nick Hart (checkout manager) and Mr Vaile (branch manager).
From the private collection of Laura Mitchell
Sue Hitchcock (office manager) with Leo ? (grocery manager).
From the private collection of Laura Mitchell
The empty shelves.
From the private collection of Laura Mitchell

In 1973 I started working for the Partnership at the Waitrose branch (No.108) in North Watford, and worked there until it closed 14 years later when I transferred to Trewins in Watford.

Light for the customers
During my time with Waitrose we suffered power strikes and had no electricity.  During these power cuts the shop remained open.  Staff and managers stood at the doors or patrolled the shop floor with torches to provide some light for the customers.  There were no generators so the remaining staff had to operate the cash registers using crank handles so cashiers could keep the tills working.

We also had a toilet roll shortage while I was at the shop.  At this time I was working in the non food department.  When a delivery arrived we would pile them as high as possible on flatbed trolleys, take them to the shop floor and within seconds they had sold out! We would then take the trolleys back up in the lift.

Rationed to one packet of sugar
There were also shortages of sugar, bread and flour (which was only available in 1lb bags.)  Customers were rationed to one packet of sugar and one loaf of bread each.  However, as the tills faced the big windows overlooking St Albans Road we were able to see entire families coming in one by one to get extra rations.

Sadly when Asda came to North Watford, with its size and vast car parks our friendly little branch had to close.  All partners were then interviewed by the area and branch managers who were able to offer advice on how to find new positions within the partnership.  Some transferred to other Waitrose branches while others, like myself, went to Trewins.  For me this was the better option.

Farewell party
Trading continued whilst the shelves were gradually emptied around the shop.  On the last day of trading, myself and the other cashiers were replaced by juniors so that we could go home to change.  On returning to the shop, we were invited to a farewell party given by Mr Vaile the branch manager and the area manager.

My late husband Terry, who was disabled was also invited.  Food and drinks were provided in the dining room which included Bucks Fizz.  All the ladies were given a yellow rose.

I asked one of the managers if Terry could be shown round the shop and warehouse.  We were escorted around and it looked really strange with the almost empty shelves and empty warehouse.  The huge fridges which normally housed butter, milk and cold meats stood open and empty except for one packet of butter.  You can see photographs of this party, and also some of the shop, showing empty shelves.  It was very sad as it would be the last time we would all be together.

After the shop closed, I went to work at Trewins whilst Mr Vaile and several other partners transferred to the new Waitrose branch in Northwood; where another party was held in the dining room for those partners transferring to other branches within the partnership or who were retiring.  My husband was fortunate enough to be invited again.

Moving to the kitchenware department in Queens Road, the tradition of inviting my husband continued, even after retirement.

Comments about this page

  • Great memories, my first job after leaving school in 1979, I left in 1983. I remember Gill Kemp, Mark White, Desmond and Cathy Fitzgerald, Phil Hanky, Roger Filler, John Canvin, Caroline Bailey, so many to mention.

    By David Gunn (03/01/2018)
  • Wow so many memories. I was at Watford from 1974 weekend assistant. To the early eighties

    By John canvin (12/05/2016)
  • Wow, I worked part time as a weekend junior 1977-1983 6thform and college I still think of Colin Vail great manger still use his methods today, great time at 108, spent many hours working on the checkouts including turning the handle in a power cut and recognise a lot in the photos ?? great

    By graeme connal (18/01/2016)
  • Wow…so many memories.  I remember shopping at the store with my parents during the power cuts.  As kids we thought it was so exciting.  My Nana kept saying it was like during the war. 

    I also remember as children having to sit in the car and wait in the car park at the back.  We used to try and count the bricks!  Good old Waitrose.

    By Sharon Allen (24/05/2014)
  • I am pleased to say I also worked in Waitrose, Watford from 1981-86.  When it closed, I moved to the Northwood branch with many other partners.  I am still working for Waitrose.

     You may be interested to know that Waitrose may be moving back to Watford in 2015.

    By Kevin Hailey (14/11/2012)
  • Wow – a blast from the past.  I recognise most of the ladies (and husband) in photos.

    I was just looking up information/updates on Leggatts School when I came across this article.  I went to Walter de Merton school then Leggatts 1974-1980.

    I worked at Waitrose supermarket, part time; Fri/Sat, some Thursdays and during the school holidays.  (I also worked part time at the International store in town which was also Gateway or the other way around).   Anyway, Waitrose was a great store to work for.  

    By Paulette (nee Francis) (05/07/2011)
  • I am Laura’s son.  I’ve just discovered this site.  I don’t suppose many people are looking in these days.

    I, too, worked at Waitrose in Watford, for some two years.   I was at my mother’s retirement party, at Trewins, as it was then called.   It brings back memories.

    By Richard Abbott-Brailey (03/03/2011)
  • I’ve a horrible feeling that the dashing young chap in the last photo is me.  I too worked at Waitrose in the Eighties.

    I can also tell you that Leo’s surname was Innocenti, but I’m not sure of the spelling.

    By James Chamberlain (22/09/2008)
  • Hello Laura.  I think you know my mum, Elaine Blatchford [she is in the first photograph.]  We used to live in Leggatts Wood Ave and I think I went to school with your son.

    By terry blatchford (14/08/2008)
  • Wow!  This brings back memories. My mother (Laura Mitchell) told me about this site, what a wonderful idea.
    I also worked for Waitrose (108) Watford from 1976-1984, I then worked at Trewins from 1984-1987.

    Now I have to go and dig through my photo collection to see if I’ve kept any old photos.

    Best wishes with this.
    Caroline Jenson (nee Brailey)

    By Caroline Jenson (25/09/2007)

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