Central England Co-op manager taken aback by community response since new store opened – just days before lockdown
A Central England Co-op store manager has spoken about a ‘challenging and rewarding’ first two months running a new community store in Leicestershire which has proved to be a lifeline for local people in need of vital food and essentials during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Store Manager Jonathan Bird has been looking back on the past eight weeks after the food store, which is known as Oak Tree Corner as a nod to the nickname of where it is located, officially opened in Manor Road, Donington le Heath on Friday, 13 March and like food stores across the country soon faced unprecedented demand.
However, the team have coped with those challenges, including having to move quickly to introduce social distancing measures to ensure the safety of customers and colleagues, and they now feel like a truly vital part of the local community in a short space of time.
Jonathan thanked locals for their ‘incredibly warm welcome’ and spoke about a whirlwind first two months in charge.
He said: “It has been fascinating, challenging, rewarding and everything in between. We opened on the Friday just before the demand for products skyrocketed and by Sunday the shelves were empty. It was just incredible.
“However, we adapted quickly and have had really good availability through the madness. I’m really proud of is how my team have adjusted.
“The location of the store has been perfect for our neighbours and the community we are in and we have had such wonderful feedback from customers. They have been bringing us in cakes, cards and boxes of chocolates to thank us for what we’ve been doing.
“It has really taken us aback. We’ve had customers walking up to us saying the nicest things and making us feel like key workers doing something important for this community. Our two front windows are full of rainbow colouring sheets which we have given out to families to colour in at home and bring back to go up. It has been lovely to see every day coming into work.”
The Oak Tree Corner Food Store has recruited five additional temporary workers to help the team and has been supporting Coalville Food Bank and Feed the Need with a special collection point in store which has been regularly filled by generous shoppers over the last two months.
Social distancing measures are in place which customers have been asked to adhere to, as well as other measures designed to keep everyone safe such as checkout screens and gloves, visors and hand sanitiser for colleagues.
Jonathan said: “The community have been really great in adapting to this new normal and again have been really kind in their feedback.
“The store has been closing at 8pm so we can spend time cleaning everything and we have been working hard to ensure we have an environment in store for social distancing that is safe for colleagues and customers.
“What has blown me away is just how pleasant and welcoming the community has been to us – we have had no moans and no frustrations with the team and I am so grateful to everyone for that.”
The Oak Tree Corner Co-operative Food Store is currently open from 7am to 8pm, Monday to Sunday.
People can keep up to date with what is happening in their local community by visiting a dedicated online hub at www.centralengland.coop/updates
Notes to editors
About Central England Co-operative
Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral, travel and property investment.
Co-operatives have always been there for their communities; they were formed to protect them and help them flourish.
Our 7,900 colleagues serving our Members and customers work hard to ensure that co-operative values, principles and spirit flow through everything we do to help support and improve our local communities.
Owned by hundreds of thousands of Members, we have over 430 trading outlets across 16 counties including West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
We are proud of our reputation for ethical business practices and corporate responsibility.
We invest a percentage of our trading profit into local communities through our Community Dividend Fund scheme, have donated over £1.3 million to our corporate charity partner Dementia UK and also operate a pioneering food redistribution partnership with FareShare Midlands so unsold food goes to those in need.
Visit www.centralengland.coop for more information or follow us on Facebook or Twitter using @mycoopfood
Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle
Phone - 01543 421390