She was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when Dennis met Margaret ...
He picked her out, shook her up and turned her around, before popping the question, which lead not only to a long and happy marriage but also strong family bond with a well known seaside hotel.
The year was 1974 and the cocktail bar was at the Sea Hotel in South Shields and Dennis Gray and Margaret married four years later – and recently they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary at the hotel with family and friends.
Continuing the connections, their son Neil was working as a waiter at the hotel in 1998 when he met receptionist Victoria.
Once again love blossomed, they too married and – hardly surprisingly – their wedding reception was held there too.
And most recently, their daughter Sophie held her 18th birthday bash there – the latest in a long list of family celebrations staged at the hotel, which was bought for £1million last year by High Street Hospitality – a member of Newcastle based High Street Group of Companies.
Having heard about the Gray family’s ties with the hotel, the new owners invited Dennis, Margaret, Neil, Victoria, Sophie and youngest daughter Chloe Gray to be guests of honour when the refurbished facilities were re-launched.
Dennis and Margaret, who live in Shrewsbury Terrace, South Shields, were delighted to accept the invitation.
Dennis said: “I knew as soon as I saw her she was the one for me. It was love at first sight.”
Margaret agreed, adding: “He asked me to marry him within a few days and I had no hesitation. And we’ve always kept our association with the Sea Hotel.
“It’s the venue of choice for family events.”
Victoria, who lives in Whitburn, said: “The hotel is such a special place for our family. We have enjoyed so many happy occasions there, it was a fantastic place to work and holds so many wonderful memories.”
Phill Brumwell, managing director with High Street Hospitality, said: “It seems this hotel has hosted hundreds of celebrations which mean a great deal to local people and so we’ve decided to keep the name.
“We were delighted to hear about Dennis and Margaret and their family’s association with the place and it was a pleasure to invite them along for lunch and to see what we’ve done.”
Prominently situated on the sea front, just 100 yards from the beach and directly opposite South Marine Park, the 1930s hotel was to join High Street Hospitality’s Hotel 52 chain. However, positive public reaction to the £750,000 facelift and the popularity of the hotel with locals like the Gray family means it will remain as The Sea Hotel.
The refurbished reception, restaurant and rooms, together with a new Latin American restaurant, Loca, fish and chip restaurant, El Coddo and coffee outlet, El Hoddo are now open. A Bar 52 American style sports bar is scheduled to launch soon.
High Street Hospitality already operates two Hotel 52 facilities at Whitley Bay and in Stanley and recently purchased the Parkmore at Eaglescliffe and The Three Horse Shoes at Washington. Other acquisitions and developments are planned.
With its headquarters in Stockbridge House, Newcastle, The High Street Group was established by Gary Forrest in 2006. It has grown to become a leading financial and property group employing over 100 people in activities including large scale property development and construction, hospitality and leisure.