Paul Jonathan Wakeling: Transport/Delivery Driver/Post Office Worker/Shop Retail, Thurrock

Hi, I’m Paul,

I’ve always worked in the retail industry, starting off with a paper round, moving to a role as a Saturday sales assistant and by the age of 17, I was a shop manager. I worked at a supermarket and when the company saw my potential they provided me with training, and I was soon running their flag-ship supermarket.

I started Orsett Stores 30 years ago and when I look back at those first tentative steps as a sole trader, I think of the little dark shop that I bought, which had more empty fridges than packets of sausages. At the end of the first week’s trading, I was amazed by the number of customers that had come through the door and supported me – some of them still come in. Now I’m proud to say that Orsett Stores is at the heart of the village, my customers have made it the success that it is and I aim to give back however I can.

When the pandemic hit, the village was eerily silent, except from a long queue that spiralled from our doors down the road. When the large supermarkets’ shelves were empty, we did all we could to have stock. Wholesalers supported our efforts to those in need first; NHS workers were allowed to queue-jump and those shielding were encouraged to ‘drive-through’. I turned the neighbour’s garden into a garden centre, and the keen gardeners were pleased to be able to sell their plants that were destined to be composted. I was proud to serve the village and be able to ensure customers could get what they needed during the pandemic.

Being a part of the Queen’s monumental celebrations is overwhelming. I’ve always admired the Queen’s commitment to her role. I wonder if she knew what it would mean when she undertook her position at such a young age. I am in awe of her determination to continue with her work when most would have stepped back or retired, especially after the personal troubles she has had to endure.  There is a lot to be said about her determination, resilience, and longevity, it offers continuity and security in a world that is rapidly changing.

“Paul’s lifework in Orsett has created a hub that has energised its community and given it a warm, friendly focal point. His commitment to the community is exemplified by his response to COVID, coming out of retirement to provide door-to-door deliveries to the vulnerable and elderly. He even employed extra staff who’d lost jobs due to the pandemic.” – extract from the key worker nomination for Paul

Paul outside his shop, Orsett Stores

We're all connected; to Her Majesty the Queen; to each other; to the past, present and future

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