Stalwart Mick recalls opening of Potteries Shopping Centre

With a new bus station due and a multi-million pound shopping centre soon to follow, the landscape is certainly changing up ’Anley.

Not since the late Eighties have we seen development on this scale in the town.

Back then we were all awaiting the opening of a new venue that would, quite literally, transform what people were starting to call the city centre.

For what seemed like an eternity, white hoardings surrounded the vast building site.

Then, on June 1, 1988 The Potteries Shopping Centre opened its doors to customers for the first time.

Working that day was Michael Steele, who had begun his job as a security officer two weeks earlier.

Almost a quarter of a century later and Mick is still keeping customers safe and happy in his role as Operations Manager.

Mick, who lives in Burslem, remembers that time vividly as the new job represented a leap into the unknown for him.

He said: “I had previously worked at H&R Johnson’s for 11 years and was made redundant in the April of 1988.

“I saw the job advertised in The Sentinel and I remember the day of my interview quite clearly as I had to fight through workmen to get to the offices for the meeting.

“It was very daunting at the time. I had only ever worked in a factory environment and so this sort of job was all new to me.

“I remember the boss telling us to ‘get lost’ and he meant it. He wanted us all to know the place like the back of our hands because he knew that very soon there would be people asking us for directions.

“I remember thinking how big it was. Five and a half acres and 11,000 square metres of corridors.” etc.”

Of course, not everyone was impressed with the new-fangled shopping mall.

Mick, pictured, said: “I remember one elderly gentlemen coming through the doors for the first time and saying to a young woman, who I assumed to be his daughter, ‘I’ll give it five years before it’s a bowling alley’.”

Fortunately, that particular visitor was wrong and 24 years later The Potteries Shopping Centre remains a huge success story.

It currently boasts around 80 stores and has a popular 120-stall market underneath it. Together, they attract more than 13 million visitors each year.

Surprisingly, many of the shopping centre’s first tenants – such as Burton and Dorothy Perkins – are still in situ alongside newer arrivals like Costa Coffee and the Disney store.

Mick said: “There have been changes and comings and goings, obviously, but not as many as people might think.

“I think people are now quite proud of The Potteries Shopping Centre and the market. It helps that we are very well integrated in the local community and do a lot of charity work.”

Over the years Mick has rubbed shoulders with a variety of celebrities who have turned up on his doorstep – from the TV Gladiator Panther and comedians Cannon and Ball to stargazer Patrick Moore. CBE.

There was also the time when the Power Rangers visited the mall and Mick, wielding a loud hailer, was left to deal with expectant crowds of mums and children when the superheroes’ train was delayed.

“Oh, and I held the door open for Britt Ekland too,” said the 59-year-old.

There’s no doubt, however, that Christmas is Mick’s favourite time of the year.

He said: “The atmosphere transforms in November when our opening hours change and the Christmas lights are switched on.

“Now that Lewis’s has gone I suppose The Potteries Shopping Centre is the focal point for Christmas celebrations because we have Santa’s grotto and it’s great to be a part of the planning process. An awful lot of work goes in to making it a special time.”

Last year it was announced that the venue’s owners, Capital Shopping Centres, are to spend £14 million expanding the complex to create a 10-screen cinema and six ‘family-friendly’ restaurants overlooking a new pedestrian avenue.

And, fingers crossed, Mick will be here to oversee that next chapter.

He added: “I’ve probably got another five years left to work – if they keep me – and I can honestly say working here remains an absolute pleasure. I’ve been very lucky.”

Pick up a copy of the Weekly Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia