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Morrisons in Folkestone opens a year after the original store was destroyed in a blaze

Shoppers flocked to the opening of a new Morrisons superstore this morning - a year after the original one burnt down.

Customers queued outside the store ahead of its 9am grand opening eager to see what new services lie inside.

Folkestone's Morrisons is now open and fire crews were invited to attend the official launch. Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone's Morrisons is now open and fire crews were invited to attend the official launch. Picture: Paul Amos

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Fire crews from Folkestone were the guests of honours and with the help of the jaws of life, station leader James Kirk cut the ribbon, marking the shop officially open.

Shoppers then dispersed among the aisles.

Yvonne Miller, from Sandgate was the first customer to step inside the new store after queuing outside from 5.30am.

The 79-year-old was also the first in line at the opening of Aldi in Hythe in September and claims she caught the bug for queuing some years ago.

She said: "I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd come down. I was here at 5.30am and had a chair and read. At about 7am they invited me inside.

"I'm usually a Waitrose girl but it looks good. I was given a bottle of champagne which is nice."

Customers flood in. Picture: Paul Amos
Customers flood in. Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone Fire Station Leader James Kirk performs the official opening. Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone Fire Station Leader James Kirk performs the official opening. Picture: Paul Amos

Shopper Jade Caldwell, 25, was a regular in the former Morrisons and was happy with her visit this morning.

She said: "We wanted to come down and see what it is like.

"I think it looks great. I like the layout of the counters, like the butchers.

"It is very busy. We struggled to get a parking space."

Customers Michael and Marilyn Phillips, from Hythe, were pleased with the deli and fish counters.

First customer Yvonne Miller. Picture: Paul Amos
First customer Yvonne Miller. Picture: Paul Amos

Mr Phillips said: "They've done a good job. It's very impressive and modern."

Also in attendance was Cllr Ann Berry, Cllr David Monk and Cllr Jackie Meade, all members of Folkestone and Hythe District Council.

The new shop boasts a wider range of groceries than the previous one including a selection of local produce, plus a bakers, butchers, fishmongers and deli.

Clothing from the Nutmeg range is also on offer, as is an in-house florist where bespoke bouquets can be put together.

Bosses have decided to increase the size of the Market Street cafe and have added a stand alone barista bar. It is the first one in a Morrisons in Kent.

Other new facilities include a pizza counter, free customer wifi and a community room, which can be hired out by local groups.

An additional 40 members of staff have been employed and all previous employees have retained their jobs.

It brings the work force to a total of 170.

It was very fitting for firefighters to attend this morning's launch, after more than 50 battled to save the shop last November after a blaze broke out in the cafe.

It is understood to have started in a deep fat fryer.

The blaze broke out on November 7 last year
The blaze broke out on November 7 last year

Luckily no one was hurt, but the building suffered substantial damage which included the roof collapsing.

Initially bosses planned to completely start again with the new build, but in the end incorporated some of the existing structure into it. This including the metal framework.

Some demolition work started in May this year and construction crews have been on site ever since.

The former clock tower has not been re-added.

A temporary Morrisons was installed in the car park in December, allowing customers to still shop in the town.

This was removed in October in anticipation of the re-opening.

Kolin King, store manager, said the blaze last year resulted in a huge loss to the community.

He said: "We’d like to thank the local community for their support over the last 12 months.

"Today they get a brand new Morrisons store with skilled food making at the heart of it and plenty of useful services.

"We hope customers love it."

He added: "It's been a year bar a day since the shop burnt down and we have welcomed the fire service back in much more pleasant circumstances."

Mr Kirk, from KFRS said he and his crew were proud and honoured to have been invited to the opening.

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