A NORTH-EAST supermarket is less than 48 hours away from opening its doors almost five years after plans were put on hold and the unit mothballed.
Morrisons in Dalton Park, near Murton, has been adding the finishing touches as it prepares to open for the very first time on Thursday.
For the past two weeks staff have been working round-the-clock to get the store ready for its grand opening.
The supermarket, which was given the go-ahead to be built in 2014, had never been used after the supermarket chain suspended plans to move into the site in 2016.
But earlier this year it was revealed that Morrisons would be relaunching its plan to open the site.
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Speaking to The Northern Echo ahead of its opening, store manager Jen Weston said: “We know the residents of Murton have been eagerly anticipating the opening of this store and we’re pleased it has come at a time when the local community needs us more than ever.
“We’ve had a brilliant warm welcome – it’s been brilliant, we’ve been able to take a lot of people on in our new store and a lot of those are from the local area.”
The supermarket, which employs almost 350 full and part-time workers, attracted more than 2,200 job applications after the roles went live two months ago.
Ms Weston said: “We had a lot of interest, we interviewed more than 1,200 applicants and have now taken on 301 new colleagues.”
Contractors have been working on the 30,000 sq ft site, with Morrisons not actually moving its store staff in until November 13.
As the plans were again announced earlier this year, Easington MP Grahame Morris welcomed the news and said: “The empty unit at Dalton Park has been a source of frustration as the whole community could see the potential of a new supermarket.
“I am delighted Morrisons will open a new supermarket by the end of the year bringing much-needed jobs and investment in time for Christmas.”
Ms Weston said the new supermarket features a number of redesigned ‘sections’, some of which are yet to be rolled out to other stores.
Ms Weston said the store will include a ‘Barista’ bar, serving freshly ground coffee and pastries, while a 152-seater cafe will open, once Covid restrictions are lifted.
She also said the iconic Market Street has been redesigned with workers in each department skilled in the trade they are working, while a florist stall will also open.
She added: “We’ve got a great store here, a fill of good colleagues who have got great skills – and we’re really excited about it.”
The supermarket is expected to take an active role in the area with the introduction of its two Community Champions, Tanya Devlin and Stephanie Carrel.
A new community space has been added, which will be offered to groups free of charge, during trading hours.
Ms Devlin said the supermarket has already managed to raise more than £1,000 for charities including CLIC Sergeant, Children in Need and foodbanks in the area.