A LONG-SERVING shop worker helped to re-open Brightlingsea’s Co-op supermarket after a £450,000 refit.

Barbara Steel started working at the Station Road shop after leaving Colne Community School in 1965. She is the shop’s longest-serving employee.

Mrs Steel said: “I know so many of our customers by name. It’s lovely in the summer, when holidaymakers and visitors call into the store for their barbecue and picnic foods.”

When Mrs Steel started at the Co-op it was divided into three separate stores, a draper’s, a butcher’s and a grocery.

She said: “Behind the shop were the stables from where the Co-op used to deliver the milk by horse and cart.

“Above the draper’s was a hall, which was hired out to local groups and where I used to go to ballet classes as a child. It’s also where members of the Co-op would queue up for their dividend payments.

“In those early days, before self-service, I was on the counter and would have to weigh out things such as tea and cheese for customers.

“By the end of the Seventies, it all became one store, when the drapery closed and the butcher’s became incorporated into the main store.”

The shop, which opened in 1912, is one of the Co-op’s oldest stores.