‘Irreplaceable’ employee prepares to say goodbye to King Street Boots after almost 50 years of dedicated service

An ‘irreplaceable’ employee is set to bid farewell to the Boots branch in South Shields’ King Street after almost half a century of service.

Colleagues say they are still taking in Sandra Huntley’s decision to call a day on almost 50 years of service for the King Street branch of the national chemist chain.

Now a healthcare adviser at the outlet, she started working at the chemist aged just 15.

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Her current workmates say the 66-year-old’s infectious sense of cheerfulness will be sorely missed by shopfloor staff and customers alike.

King Street Boots worker Sandra Huntley is due to retire from the store.

Ingrid Wright has worked alongside Mrs Huntley for 45 of the nigh-on 48 years, apart from taking around three years out to have a family, she has been at the King Street Boots branch - which, when both joined the business fresh out of school, was at the other end of the borough’s main shopping thoroughfare.

"She settled in very quickly and her talents soon became apparent – she had a lovely way with customers and with people in general,” Ms Wright said of her outgoing colleague.

"She originally worked on photography. She'd have all her flashboards out and films at the ready for them.

“She’s kind, caring and has time for all kinds of people – she loves chatting with anyone who comes in and she sings all the time, so she’s just a proper character.”

King Street Boots worker Sandra Huntley has been described as irreplaceable

The current store manager, Karen White, told The Gazette: “I’m not sure how we’re going to advertise the vacant position once Sandra’s left because all she’s done doesn’t fit into job description.

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"She’s totally irreplaceable. I’ve worked here for a lot of years now and Sandra is one of the characters who’ll stand out still when I look back on my time here.

"Almost everything she takes care of is done with a sense of fun. Sometimes the people she’s dealing with are ill, they’re sad, they’re lonely – but not after they’ve spoken to Sandra, because she seems to be able to hit the right note with everyone.”

Among her lasting memories of working at the South Shields Boots shops are the disappearance of the old tram line that used to run down the centre of King Street and Muhammad Ali’s 1977 visit to the town.

Looking ahead to her retirement next month, she says she plans to devote more time to her family in South Tyneside, as well as to travelling, once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions begin to lift.

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“I look forward to popping in every now and again still to keep them on their toes. But, first, a holiday is definitely in order,” she added.

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