Our much-loved colleague Joan Ferry started working at our South Woodham Ferrers store for a six-week spell one Christmas – and 40 years later she's still working with us!

Joan, who's 75, is the longest-serving colleague at the store and says she doesn't have any plans to retire.

She said: "I only came in for a six-week spell one Christmas and am still here 40 years later!

"The store opened in the September and I came in temporarily for Christmas. Then they gave me a call in March and asked if I fancied a job on the checkouts – and I've been here ever since.

"I had only been here for two or three months when I came down to the cash office – and now my seat has got quite a nice dent in it from where I've been sitting over the years.

"I do enjoy coming to work – I don't want to be home all the time."

She's worked alongside Sally Cunningham, another of the store's long-serving colleagues, for the last 30 years.

Sally said: "We're like a little family in here because we know each other so well. We're friends outside work too, so it's lovely working together."

Joan, who lives just a ten-minute walk away from the store, has been married to her husband Dave for 51 years. They have two daughters, Louisa and Maria – and Louisa followed in her mum's footsteps when she was in her teens by working in the store.

She's not the only relative Joan's worked alongside – her brother-in-law Peter, pictured below, is a security guard at the store.

He said: "I moved to Woodham 38 years ago and Joan was working here then. When I was made redundant she said 'We've got jobs here' so I applied and I've been here for 10 years now. It was supposed to be a temporary job.

"It's funny to be working alongside Joan. Although we're in different parts of the store I bump into her most days, which is lovely. People will tell you there's a family feel here – and with my sister-in-law here we're the proof that that's true!"

Joan says one of the most memorable days of her four decades at the store was when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh called on a visit to the town in 1981.

She said: "It was such a big talking point in the town when the Queen and Duke called in. I remember the weather wasn't particularly nice, but it stopped raining before they arrived and she wore pink. Lots of schoolchildren were lining the streets to see them – it was a great day and a proud moment for everyone in the town."

Store manager Neil Roots says everyone at the store is proud of Joan and other long-serving colleagues.

"Forty years of service is a real achievement," said Neil. "I'd never worked in a shop which has been open for this length of time before moving here and I've found there's a genuine family feel here.

"When you get new colleagues who start and within a year or two they're all part of the family too."