Photo gallery: Doors open at new Waitrose - first customer in search of raclette

First through the doors of North Walsham's new Waitrose on its opening day this morning was near neighbour Gill Baldwin, in search of raclette cheese.

Mrs Baldwin, who lives a little further down Cromer Road from the store, arrived at 7.30am ready for the 8am opening, by which time she had been joined by about 30 other eager customers.

Meanwhile, rival supermarket Sainsbury's, based in Bacton Road, appeared to be rising to the challenge with reports of a man push-biking around the town on its weekly market day this morning, advertising the town's Sainsbury's on a large board.

Mrs Baldwin moved to North Walsham 13 weeks ago from Hertfordshire and said she had been 'warned' by the estate agent that a supermarket was due to open near her new home.

'When I heard it was Waitrose I was delighted. I will be walking here to get shopping all the time,' she added.

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Customers had to wait to hit the aisles until a ribbon had been cut by town mayor Dave Robertson who said North Walsham Town Council and the chamber of trade believed the store was the right size, in the right place and would have a positive impact on North Walsham.

'I am confident that the vast majority of the people feel the same,' he added.

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'As well as filling what could easily have become another derelict site, it has already brought much-needed employment to our town.'

Brenda and Robert Mallett, from Aylmerton, near Cromer, were right behind Mrs Baldwin in the queue and said they were looking forward to a 15-minute trip to Waitrose in future, rather than the one-hour trek they used to undergo to shop at branches in Eaton, Norwich, or in Swaffham.

'When we heard they were coming we jumped in the air - right on our doorstep,' said Mr Mallett.

Hannah Jenkins was the first to complete her shopping and test the skills of the till operators watched by her children, 13-months-old Rosie and Kristian, one month.

Ms Jenkins has just moved to North Walsham with her partner Thomas Turner, so that he could take up his post as an assistant section manager at the new store.

'We moved here six days after Kristian was born so I'm really glad the store's opened at last - now we can get back to normal,' she said.

Mr Turner is among 170 employees at the store. Manager Ashley Broad said everyone had been nervous but very excited this morning as they prepared for the opening. He added: 'The atmosphere has been electric.'

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