UP CLOSE: with Sheila Fontana who is all smiles in her role as a Crewe store manager

Crewe Nub News aims to support our community, promoting shops, businesses, charities, clubs and sports groups. We will be profiling some of these businesses and organisations regularly in a feature called 'Up Close in Crewe'.

First, we’re chatting to Sheila Fontana, store manager at Co-op’s Gateway store in Crewe.

In her role as store manager, Sheila is dedicated to spreading happiness around the community and her colleagues at the Co-op. So much so that Sheila, who has worked for Co-op for the last 14 years, has pinned up her favourite motto, ‘Be the reason someone smiles today’, on the store’s staff board.

Working for the Co-op, she says has brought happiness into her own life and helped change her life for the better.

Tiring of stressed-out working weeks in her former role with an oil company for which she had to commute to Milton Keynes, Sheila joined the Co-op as a customer team member at her local branch near her home in Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme back in 2007.

After spending eight years on her local patch, she has progressed through managerial roles as she has moved around stores. Sheila recalls: “It came to a point where my working life wasn’t doing me any good, so I joined the Co-op because I knew it would provide a work-life balance and I knew it did good in the community.”

Sheila moved on from Bradwell, to Talke and then Readesdale Avenue in Crewe, where she says she felt inspired, before transferring to Co-op’s Haslington store for 18 months and then, last year, arriving at Gateway.

Wherever she has been she says she has been a strong advocate for the old maxim that a happy workplace produces happy workers.

“The first thing I do is ask my staff how we can work together as a team. One of my stints at a store taught me how important it is to step back and listen to your colleagues. It’s part of the way of working as Co-op is very supportive of its staff,” she says.

“When I go to a store and if you see people are happy working there I know that will make a big difference to the shopping experience for customers.

“The store manager is the least important person in a store – if the customer team members are happy then the store is a happy one. It’s about pulling together and succeeding together.”

Sheila says the Co-op’s ethos and values mean a lot to her, not just at work, but in her personal life. In her role as store manager she enjoys interacting with the Co-op’s Local Community Fund causes.

The Gateway store currently supports The Up and Under Foundation, which provides help for disabled people to get out and about.

It is also backing SCB Special Needs, which offers employment opportunities for those with learning difficulties at its workshop on Weston Road in Crewe.

Completing its trio of Local Community Fund causes is the Haslington Support Group, launched at the start of the pandemic to reach out to vulnerable members of the community.

Its volunteers undertake shopping errands and prescription pick-ups among other things.

“You need to show you care. I’m really passionate about the Co-op because I know we try so hard to help the community,” says Sheila.

“The local causes are so important and knowing Co-op Membership helps them by our members simply shopping with us is why we’re so keen our customers become members.”

Staff at Gateway have helped out regular customers who have struggled to get into the store during the lockdown with shopping deliveries. While they have worked with Haslington Support Group to ensure volunteers get the best possible support.

Gateway Co-op hosts a foodbank drop-off for the Crewe-based Chance Changing Lives, who run a Saturday kitchen at Wishing Well where the homeless and those on low incomes can get a hot meal.

“We also make our food waste available to Lath, the homeless support group, who are at the Lighthouse in Stewart Street (Crewe),” adds Sheila.

“We’ve also applied to the Co-op Community Donations Policy on behalf of local groups so they can receive awards of up to £200.”

As well as making the most of food waste, sustainability is taken seriously in other areas at the store where the recycling of plastic and cardboard/glass is mandatory and is now being extended to soft plastic products too.

Meanwhile, staff are busy planning a 110 km circular fundraiser for mental health charity Mind later in August and September.

“We have done a lot of fundraising for Mind, including a recent tombola in-store. Now we’re planning to visit all the Co-op stores across our area to raise more money for Mind,” says Sheila.

“Our colleagues will either walk, run or cycle from Gateway to Haslington, then on to Remer Street and Bradfield Road in Crewe before heading for Wistaston and Shavington and further afield, visit stores at Tarporley, Holmes Chapel and Elworth and then head back here.”

Co-op membership helps support your local community, with great rewards for you too. When you buy selected Co-op branded products and services, 2p for every pound spent goes to you and we’ll give the same to local communities.

Join us today online or in-store.

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