35 years on, Asda in Whitchurch is hub of community
IT was 35 years ago – when a bar of soap cost 12 pence and a pound of bacon was just 72 pence – when the Asda store at Whitchurch first opened its doors.
The store, which now employs more than 300 staff, opened on Valentines Day in 1978 – a time when money still came in pound notes and chip and pin hadn't even been dreamt of.
Back in 1978 you could do your weekly shop and still have change from a £10 note to fill the car with petrol – which was only 73.5 pence a gallon, about 16 pence a litre.
Over the years the 35,000 sq ft store, at Oatlands Avenue, has become a hub of the community, welcoming thousands of shoppers through its doors each week.
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Before the store opened, local people had to travel to Knowle or Bedminster or into the city centre to pick up their weekly essentials.
Many of those customers have continued to return every week to pick up their groceries. One of these is Mervyn Kemp, 81 and his wife Mavis, 78, who live in Whitchurch.
The couple started shopping at the supermarket after moving to the village 34 years ago. Mervyn said: "We come every day apart from Sunday.
"We come in to get the paper and the groceries we need for that day.
"A lot has changed over the years and when it first opened it was mainly branded foods without the Asda range.
"But now there is so much more choice and variety.
"We love coming here and know all the staff – in fact I get teased that I am off to Asda to 'see my girls'.
"Everyone is so friendly, pleasant and cheerful ."
Another loyal customer is nursing assistant and mum of two, Collette Dean of Knowle. Mrs Dean said: "I pop in here every day, even if it's just for milk and bread.
"It's a really friendly store which is well laid out and has everything I need."
And it's not just the customers that have a long history with the store, as many of the staff have worked there for decades.
Tina Badman, 53, of Knowle has worked at the store for 24 years, first in customer services and now as an availability colleague, checking stock and making sure the shelves are filled.
The mum of two, who used to work as a machinist, started work at Asda after having her family and wanting a part time job.
Mrs Badman said: "All the people here are so friendly and we socialise together and look after each other – they are my extended family.
"There are some customers that have been coming here for the last 35 years so you get to know them well too.
"At Christmas some of them bring us in treats, such as chocolates and sweets."
Julie Hatcher is another long serving member of staff at Asda, working there for 27 years.
Mrs Hatcher, 55, started on the checkouts and has worked her way up to the position of produce manager and works at the store full time,
Mrs Hatcher said: "A lot of the people who work here have been here a long time.
"But what is nice to see now is the children of some of the mums who have worked her coming and getting jobs."
The store, which has 650 parking spaces and a fuel station, has seen a number of changes over the years.
One of the most recent is the installation of a pharmacy six months ago – a move which has proved popular with customers.
Asda Whitchurch duty manager, Neil Little, 33, said: "We are always interested in ideas and suggestions from our customers and one of the things they wanted was a pharmacy and we were glad to be able to provide one."
The store is also very involved in the local community and raises thousands of pounds for charity each year including Asda's chosen causes, Tickled Pink and EveryMan.
A number of staff also took part in the Three Peak Challenge last year, climbing the country's three highest peaks and raising £1,000 for the good causes and money spinning quiz nights are held at the local pub.
Mr Little added: "It's a fantastic store to work in and we are very community minded.
"We have a loyal customer base and see a lot of the same faces every day."
To celebrate the special anniversary, a number of promotions and events are being held in store today.
The Post has teamed up with the store to offer customers a free four pack of muffins in exchange for a voucher in today's newspaper.
The Lawmen re-enactment group will also be holding a tombola in store from 10am and there will be a performance by Easton based Mundi Dance Group.
The dance group, which appeared on the TV show Got to Dance, will be performing African dance routines for customers.
Staff will also be dressing up in original Asda uniforms while others will be arriving for work in fancy dress outfits from the 70s era.
There will also be a celebration cake for customers and there will be sampling on offer in store.
The store's community champion, Tracey Stelljes, said: "We want everyone to come along and celebrate our special anniversary with us."