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.
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.
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.
Depot manager, Plymouth