THEY have each clocked up 35 years of loyal service – so it’s hardly surprising that their bosses and colleagues wanted to throw a surprise party for two super Basingstoke supermarket workers.
Oakley residents Joan Pearson, 77, from Woodcroft, and Lorna Stacey, 68, from Lightsfield, were clearly thrilled with the lunchtime surprise tea party in The Malls store .
They had been called in to speak with the store manager, while colleagues gathered with cakes and sandwiches to mark the pair’s landmark achievement.
The occasion brought back many happy memories as the good friends recalled the time when, as busy mums, they were fortunate enough to secure employment at the supermarket, initially for one day a week.
And they have certainly seen some changes over the years, including when the supermarket relocated from Queen Anne’s Square, in what is today’s Festival Place, to its present location in the 1980s, and when, around 10 years ago, this store was completely revamped.
Over the years, the pair have worked in various departments, including the bakery, butchery and delicatessen as well as working on the tills.
“I would say we’ve had to work on five or six different types of till,” said Joan, who is known by colleagues as Queenie.
Although sometimes a challenge, they have embraced new technology, with Lorna recalling: “I remember when scanning was new.” Ever ready with a helping hand, she now oversees the self-service tills, while Joan mans the customer service kiosk.
There have been plenty of highlights and memorable occasions and customers – among them Lord Sainsbury’s housekeeper and butler.
Joan, whose first job was to work in the butcher’s section, said: “The butchery manager used to panic a bit when he knew they were on the way. We’d all have to change our uniforms and open up a till to serve them.”
“Lord Sainsbury would also come in, but not as a customer. He’d come at Christmas and he would be very chatty and pleasant.”
It is the flexibility of the town centre Sainsbury’s management team that has kept the grandmothers working at the supermarket for so long.
“They treat us very well and it’s a good atmosphere to work in,” said Lorna. “It’s like a large family here and I enjoy the camaraderie – it’s lovely.”
Impressed with Joan and Lorna’s long service, store manager Paul Beesley, 30, said: “It’s a phenomenal achievement, especially in this day and age when people don’t necessarily stay in their jobs for long and don’t have that kind of commitment.
“They started work at Sainsbury’s five years before I was born. To stick with the company and the same store for 35 years is just incredible.”