Tom Walker & Sons: A History

Take a look at the history of Tom Walker & Sons. See how we have progressed from operating from a small unit on an industrial estate, to a derelict farm site, to a modern production facility, and everything else in between!

Timeline

1982

Pauline Chapman and Tom Walker at a cheese stall in December 1982

December 1982

Tom Walker forms Tom Walker & Sons, relying on knowledge built from working in the industry since 1946. The business was run from Tom’s house for the first six months, and storage facilities at the KW Devereux site in Billingham were used.

1983

Selection of cheeses in the shop in June 1983

June 1983

We rented premises at 24 High Street, Stockton, and used the first floor as our offices and the ground floor as a retail shop ‘The Cheeseboard‘. The retail outlet closed in 1989.

1984

June 1984

June 1984

We occupied Unit 5, Preston Farm Industrial Estate. The wholesale business operated from here, and we eventually rented three units at this site.

1985

1982-1990

1982-1990

From 1982 to 1990, we worked as a regional cheese wholesaler, developing business with regional multiples and co-operatives, department stores and independent delicatessens. The consolidation in these market sectors, which began in the late 1980s, meant that we needed to change our business model from that of a regional wholesaler to a national distributor, skilled in depot deliveries with short lead times. We began this adaptation in 1991.

1988

Tom Walker and Sons Grainstore before rennovations

July 1988

We bought ‘Thorpe Leazes Farm’, a dilapidated set of farm buildings to the north of Thorpe Thewles, near Stockton-on-Tees. Alterations began to make the premises fit for our use.

1989

View of the site from the front in January 1989

January 1989

We began operating from Thorpe Leazes Farm.

1991

Tom Walker and Sons vans 1991

1991

Our fleet of vans for regional operations began to be phased out around this time.

1991

Grainstore 1991 Before and After

1991

We began the long process of transforming ‘The Grainstore’, one of the most dilapidated buildings at Thorpe Leazes, into one of our premises’ main assets.

1993

High Care One 1993

1993

While we had carried out some limited packing operations at Thorpe Leazes Farm since 1989, in 1993, we invested in the conversion of the rooms which are today ‘High Care One’. This enabled us to start cutting and packing white-mould cheeses to a high standard.

1994

1994

1994

The demise of Western Cheese in Wiltshire allowed us to venture into the selection pack market by retaining some of their business.

1997

Tom Walker

1997

Tom Walker retired from the business.

1999

New Snacking Unit 1999

1999

An opportunity in the ‘Snacking’ market enabled us to invest in facilities for packing multiple small cheeses into bags. We built what is now the ‘Low-Risk Snacking Suite‘ of production rooms.

2003

New Mezzanine 2003

2003

Further changes were made to ‘The Grainstore‘. A mezzanine floor was added to house packaging stocks, which was then extended in 2004.

2004

Kaserei Champignon Truck in Tom Walker and Sons Yard

2004

We were contracted by Elite Imports, the main agents for Cambozola in the UK, to carry out their packing for all multiple retailers. The first delivery of Cambozola was received for co-packing.

2004

High Care 2 Machinery 2004

2004

A new ‘High Care Two‘ production area was built and made fully operational in just 3 months.

2005

Netting Machinery 2005

2005

We invested in the latest ‘netting’ machinery to enable the packing of high volume snacking products in netted format.

2006

Newly Refurbished High Care One 2006

2006

Refurbishment of the production area ‘High Care One‘ was carried out.

2007

Bench in the Woodland looking out over the fields

2007

In 1998, we had planted 1,400 native trees over 2 hectares of land at the rear of Thorpe Leazes. To celebrate our 25th year in business in 2007, we made this area into a woodland walk, which we named ‘The Joan Walker Way’. Bird boxes were installed to encourage wildlife, together with memorial arbours for staff who have died in our service.

2007

Joan Walker cutting the ribbon to open the woodland

2007

Celebrating 25 years in business, the Joan Walker Way was officially opened by Joan Walker herself! The grand opening took place during a party attended by staff, as well as representatives of companies that we have had relationships with for many years. The weather was perfect for the barbecue and strolling around the woodland. The day was a great way to thank those who have helped to shape the company into the thriving business it is today. 

2008

PFM Flow-Wrap Machine 2008

2008

We added to our packing repertoire by purchasing a PFM Tornado gas-flushing high throughput flow-wrapper, improving our ability to pack hard-pressed cheeses.

2009

Green Tom Walker and Sons Van 2009

2009

A consolidation of distribution meant saying goodbye to the last van in the Tom Walker & Sons fleet. National distribution continued using chilled hauliers.

2009

Trees in the Woodland

2009

A concentrated focus was made on environmental improvements. This was achieved by good energy management, putting measures in place to reduce energy waste and raising staff awareness. More efficient use of water reduced our usage by more than 40% in one year!

2010

2010

2010

The harsh winter of 2009/10 encouraged us to make some yard improvements to stop trucks getting stuck in the snow! A fork-lift snow plough was purchased to help out!

2012

Champagne being poured into glasses

2012

In 2012, we celebrated 30 years of business! We had a staff gathering aboard the HM Bark Endeavour on the River Tees to mark the occasion. With plenty of music, dancing and cheese to go round, it was a great way to thank staff for their service and commitment to the company.

2014

Ilapak Astra in Production

2014 – 2015

We replaced machinery in both of our High Care areas to increase our cutting and packing capabilities. The addition of the two Ilapak Astras means that we can wrap up to 4000 units an hour!

2015

Nick Reader with Supreme Champion Trophy at the Great Yorkshire Show 2015

2015

In July, Rougette, a cheese that we are proud to co-pack, won the prestigious Supreme Champion Award at the Great Yorkshire Show. Nick Reader collected the trophy and commented on what an excellent moment it was.

2016

2016

2016

We upgraded our checkweighing and metal detection capability by investing in two Fortress Combi machines for each of our Astra lines. These meet all retailer requirements for failsafe rejection, password protection and enhanced data recording. 

2017

Sponge Cake

2017

During the Christmas rush, we paused to have a piece of cake to celebrate the company’s 35th birthday! Time really does fly when you’re having fun.