Under the spotlight

Bob Johnson has an infectious smile, a cheeky sense of humour and worked for Blakemans for over 30 years. As one of the family’s longest standing team members, we decided to find out more about our former fresh packing manager upon his retirement.

Rob Johnson
Fresh Packing Manager

What was your last role at Blakemans?

“Fresh Packing Manager”

How long did you hold that role?

“ooh, about 30 years”

How did you start your journey in the food industry?

“When I was 16 I took up a job in wholesale, that’s when I first met Mr B (Mr Blakeman). He used to come in for bacon, cooked hams and allsorts for his business. After that I took on a manager’s position at a cash and carry before, finally, coming to Blakemans.”

What made you want to come to Blakemans?

“That’s a good story; one Saturday morning I was driving to work at the cash & carry. The motorway was white over with snow and I was shunted across the road and I thought to myself ‘I’ve had enough of this’. One afternoon shortly after I decided to go and see Mr B at his factory as I’d known him since I was 16 but he wasn’t there, he was out shooting so I spoke to Sue. That evening, he phoned me at home at about quarter to six and offered me the job I still have now”

What was the best thing about your job?

I honestly enjoyed it all thoroughly. I had to attend to all sorts of things in a day and no two days were the same. When I first got the job I thought to myself ‘that’ll tide me over until something else comes along’ but the thought of leaving has never crossed my mind since I started.

What are your favourite memories of working here throughout the years?

Ann (Ann Blakeman, James’ wife), she was one of the nicest ladies you’d ever wish to meet. She worked on the packing lines every day until her retirement in 1995. She was so hard working and just mucked in with everyone else, she was a joy to be around.

Oh and there was the time that (insert cheeky chuckle here!) I got an accidental pay rise. I used to take my daughter to the football at the weekends, we loved it. To be able to go to more matches, especially the away ones, we used to car share with a family who owned a local wholesale business and was one of our customers. Well, one of our other customers at the time caught wind of this and went and told Mr B that I was leaving to work for the wholesalers, that they were poaching me. One morning JT called me to his office, he told me that he was going to make it difficult for me to leave and he offered me a pay rise. At the end of the meeting, I explained that we were only sharing a ride and that I wouldn’t move for a gold pig, he just laughed.

When I first came to Blakemans, they were in their Northam road site and there were only about 15 to 20 of us working there. I remember visiting the Trubshaw Cross site with Phil (Phil Blakeman) when it was just built; it was a still a shell at the time, like an enormous warehouse. We stood there and Phil turned to me and said “We’ll never outgrow this!” In less than 7 years, they’d bought some more land to the rear of the factory from a man who made nuts and bolts to build an extension to the cold stores, which they’d built on stilts so that there was still somewhere to park underneath. Now, they’ve had more extensions than I can count and have moved to an even larger site with 300 employees.

If you could have done absolutely any job, what job would you do?

My own, I loved it! The Blakemans always looked after me and I’ve never considered moving. The people are fantastic. I really loved my little corner of the factory from the staff and our facilities to the customers. It’s been great!

What advice would you give to your 13 year old self?

When I was at school, my teacher wanted me to go into further education but I wanted to get a job and some money. Those days, most school leavers went straight into employment, it was just the norm. So I guess I’d advise myself to go for it but having said that, I might not be as happy as I am if I’d have gone so I don’t know.

What will you be doing with your time now that you’re retired?

Lots of golf, I’ve played for 20 years.

Do you have a favourite book or film?

Ooh, the one with the lady with the arrows, ‘The hunger games’. They’re my favourite books of all time; I didn’t really see all of the films though.


We’d like to wish Bob a very happy retirement and to thank him for his long and dedicated service. Paul Tompkinson has now taken the mantle as Chilled Packing Manager. We hope he enjoys his role as much as Rob and we’d like to wish him success in his new role, he has some very big shoes to fill!