No happy ending as staff mark end of Disney store in Potteries Shopping Centre
SHOP workers from the past and present held a reunion to mark the end of a doomed Disney store.
The party last night saw staff travel from across the country to return to the Potteries, so they could bid farewell to the city centre shop.
Earlier this month, the global firm announced it planned to pull the plug on its Potteries Shopping Centre-based outlet.
But the reunion tales did feature a few happy endings which Disney movie producers would have enjoyed.
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Mark and Hayley Molloy got married after meeting at the store when it opened back in 1997.
They were among its first workers, known as cast members, and started to date within weeks of meeting each other.
Hayley, aged 32, who previously lived in Longton, said: "I started when the shop first opened and Mark was a Christmas temp originally."
The couple, who now live in Warwick, tied the knot seven years ago.
For Mark, who moved to the area to study at Keele University, the temporary job not only led to meeting his wife but a career.
The 35-year-old said: "I went on to be a manager for the Disney stores and, during my time with the business, I worked at 22 different shops."
The pair were among more than a dozen former and current workers at the reunion in Hanley.
Hayley, a former Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College student, who now works as a regulation committee officer, said: "When I got a job there, Disney was huge.
"I started when I was 18 and left when I was 21. But looking back, it was one of the best jobs I have ever done."
Mark, who now works as a paramedic for West Midlands Ambulance Service, added: "It was the people who made it – they were all such a good bunch.
"It is a shame that it's going, but I suppose these are the times that we are in."
It was initially understood that Disney decided to shut in Hanley due to a dispute with the shopping centre over rent.
However, via its Twitter account, the centre has since told followers that rent was not an issue and a refit of the store was also offered.
Disney has also closed a number of other stores across the country.
Twelve members of staff working at the Hanley store have been offered the chance to work at neighbouring branches or be made redundant. It is believed three of that number had been at the store since it first opened.
David Spence, who was the first manager at the Hanley branch, says its closure has saddened former staff.
"It is really sad to see it closing as I remember the opening day when there must have been thousands of people queuing to get inside," he said.
"We had the characters here all dressed up and it was just great.
"It was always a very happy environment and everyone just got on with each other very well."
David, who now works at London's O2 Arena, added: "We had 500 people apply for 20 jobs, which shows what a big deal it was at the time."
Maxine Shaw, aged 50, from Harriseahead, was one of the first workers at the store.
The mother-of-one, who is now a customer service adviser for BT, said: "I remember it was David who interviewed me and we always got on really well.
"We always thought Disney did happy endings, but this time that hasn't really happened."