This month our Plymouth depot celebrated an amazing 40 years of serving our stores. At the same time Karen Demellweek, Depot General Manager, was toasting 32 years working for Co-op. Here she tells her story.

I started as a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) in the accounts office when we used to be Plymouth & South West Co-operative Society before we became part of Co-op.

I worked my way around the depot in lots of different roles and now I’m running it. Things have certainly changed in 32 years but all for the better.

No longer a male-dominated place to work

When I started out I thought I was going to be an office bod but I’m so happy my career turned out differently.

I was quite chuffed when I became Co-op’s first ever female distribution manager – my parents were so proud.

Logistics used to be a male-oriented world so it’s great to see the women coming through and going into senior positions. Janet John is now looking after our Thurrock depot and I’ve also had two female regional operations managers in my time at Co-op.

I think things have moved on so much – it’s not just the office jobs women go for, we have excellent warehouse operatives and female drivers too.

A family atmosphere

There are colleagues who’ve worked here longer than me. Barbara our cleaner started out in the green grocery department 38 years ago.

Barbara and the ladies at Plymouth depot

Barbara (far left) and Karen (front left) with other women who work in the depot

We call ourselves ‘Co-op lifers’. Usually if anyone leaves it’s down to retirement. When people visit they say it’s like a family atmosphere. Everybody knows everyone – they could probably tell you their partner’s names and how many kids they’ve got. It’s very close-knit.

We’ve got a few families working here. On the shop floor we’ve got a father and son partnership. There are also people who’ve met and fallen in love at the depot. That includes me as I met my husband here although we don’t get to see each other much as he works the night shift on transport and I work mostly days.

Size doesn’t matter

At the moment we’ve got 134 staff which includes drivers, management and warehouse operatives.

In our transport department we used to have 13 drivers, and we’re up to about 60 now. That department has definitely grown.

We’re still one of the smallest depots but we’re an important part of the jigsaw – one of the best performing in the network.

We were the first depot in Europe to go live on the new Manhattan (warehouse management) software – we were quite chuffed with that.

Recently some of my shift and team managers went to our Avonmouth depot to help them through the launch of the software. We feel privileged to be leading the way.

Karen and team in the 80s

Spot Karen on the left in the stripy top with her head down!

Happy 40th to us

It’s fantastic to be celebrating 40 years of serving stores in the South West. We’ve already had an evening celebration buffet with colleagues past and present, which was lovely, and this week we’ve got Logistics Director Andy Perry on site with Food area managers and third party organisations we’ve invited.

That feeling of being part of something bigger is what’s made me want to stay working here all this time. Although we’ve been through some tough times as an organisation, there’s a sense of pride that we did our bit to help Co-op get through them.

Karen Demellweek
Depot manager, Plymouth

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Congratulations Karen and all of your team – great to see women in the top jobs. More power to us!! Not many places can now boast such long-service so you must be doing something right..

  2. Well done Karen and Team Plymouth for being the epitome of Being Coop. Loving the new roof by the way.

  3. What a fantastic achievement. I had the honour and pleasure of working with you and the team when you transferred over from Plymco (can you believe that its coming up for 13 years ago???). I have never met a more dedicated and hard-working bunch of people. Bravo on this fantastic milestone and best wishes for the next 40 years!!

  4. thanks Karen and team,being a Cornish store ,we are served by u at Plymouth and well done in your achievements.

  5. Well done Karen. This is a fantastic achievement for both you and your colleagues at Plymouth. Keep up the great work!

  6. Fantastic! Great to hear these positive stories happening across the Co-op. I really look forward to the day that this is no longer an issue and each and every employee feels that there are no barriers to furthering your career in our Co-op (and every business). It’s important to reflect that sometimes we create barriers ourselves and “think” you may be overlooked, but articles like this show that hard work and determination pay off. There are superb people in this business, let’s support each other and recognise those who work hard to keeps things Co-op!

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