She started out as a Christmas girl but now Andrea Maxwell is ready to lead one of Hartlepool’s longest established retail names into a new future.
The 41-year-old mother-of-two from Rossmere only joined Marks & Spencer on a six-week contract as a customer assistant in 1996.
Of course it’s emotional, but we need to embrace the change. It’s a bit like leaving an old house that you feel sentimental about, but then you are going to somewhere new.Andrea Maxwell, store manager at M&S in Hartlepool
Now, she will be at the helm as the store manager when M&S leaves its home in the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre and heads to the Anchor Retail Park - taking all 60 existing staff with it and adding 25 more.
“There is some sadness,” she admitted. “Of course it’s emotional, but we need to embrace the change. It’s a bit like leaving an old house that you feel sentimental about, but then you are going to somewhere new.”
M&S links with Middleton Grange end at 5.30pm next Tuesday. The next day, at 10am, Andrea will cut a ribbon to declare the new outlet open.
“We are ready for a new chapter,” said Andrea. “M&S has been part of Hartlepool for more than 100 years and the time has come for change.
“We need to grow our food base which is a strength of ours in the town.”
The new 8,000 sq ft store will provide shoppers with more than 4,500 food and drink lines, a 50-seater cafe and an in-store bakery. Andrea will oversee it all with a team that can boast more than 1,050 years service.
“We look upon each other as a close team. It is a great opportunity for me and I think this is something I shall remember for the rest of my life.”
Andrea had only ever worked at Binns as a Saturday girl before she grabbed the chance to become a Christmas worker at M&S. “I started for six weeks and I am still here now,” she said.
She has held roles including deputy supervisor, section co-ordinator, and now store manager.
She said: “I am very proud to take the team with me to a new shop and I am proud to lead these changes.
“I have looked at it, been on site visits and everything is going to plan. It will be a beautiful shop and there is no reason why I can not stay here for the rest of my career.”