Tom Walker & Sons: A HistoryTake 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!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.June 1983We 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.June 1984We occupied Unit 5, Preston Farm Industrial Estate. the wholesale business was run from there, and we eventually rented three units at this site.1982-1990From 1982 to 1990, we operated 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 commenced this transformation in 1991.July 1988We bought ‘Thorpe Leazes Farm’, a dilapidated set of farm buildings to the north of Thorpe Thewles, near Stockton-on-Tees. Transformations began to make the premises fit for our use.January 1989We began running the business from Thorpe Leazes Farm.1991We began the long process of transforming ‘The Grainstore’, one of the most dilapidated buildings at Thorpe Leazes, into one of our premises’ main assets.1991Our fleet of vans for regional operations began to be phased out around this time.1993While we had carried out some limited packing operations at Thorpe Leazes Farm since 1989, in 1993, we invested in the transformation of the rooms which are today ‘High Care One’. This enabled us to cut and pack white-mould cheeses to a high standard.1994The demise of Western Cheese in Wiltshire allowed us to venture into the selection pack market by retaining some of their business.1997Tom Walker retired from the business.1999An 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.2003Further changes were made to ‘The Grainstore’. A mezzanine floor was added to house packaging stocks, which was then extended in 2004.2004We contracted with 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.2005We invested in the latest ‘netting’ machinery to enable the packing of high volume snacking products in netted format.2006Refurbishment of the production area ‘High Care One’ was carried out.2007In 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 transformed this are with the construction of 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.2007Celebrating 25 years in business, The Joan Walker Way was officially opened by Joan Walker herself!2008We added to our packing repertoire by purchasing a PFM Tornado gas-flushing high throughput flow-wrapper, improving our ability to pack hard-pressed cheeses.2009A consolidation of distribution meant saying goodbye to the last van in the Tom Walker & Sons fleet. National distribution continued using chilled hauliers.2009A 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!2010The 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!2015 – 2016We 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!