From golf pro to shopping centre boss

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Life seldom works out like we expect it to.

For one young man his life seemed to be all mapped out.

He was just 18 and a scratch handicap golfer with a job as a club professional lined up that would pay him good wages and provide a career that would last him through his life, doing something he loved.

But when all that was taken away it led to an altogether different life, which nevertheless provided a number of very happy memories.

The young man in question was Jim Hughes.

Jim has recently retired as the boss of Scarborough’s Brunswick Shopping Centre, a job that is further than a Tiger Woods drive away from the one he almost had.

The 62-year-old says he has taken to retirement like a duck to water but never thought his life would turn out that way.

“I was a scratch golfer and the job as a pro fell through and I had to find something to do quickly as I was going to have no money but had no idea what else I wanted to do,” he said.

He found himself taking a job sweeping floors at the Colwyn Bay branch of Woolworths.

From there he had a meteoric rise through the ranks of the British retail giant and at the age of just 22 was appointed manager of the company’s Headingley branch in Leeds.

“It was a bit strange as there were not many people there younger than I was,” he said.

“Woolworths was a great company to work for as hard work was rewarded and they looked after people, which is how I was able to become a manager so quickly.”

His promotion could mean that he was possibly one of the youngest ever managers of Woolworths in the company’s long and illustrious history.

“Headingley had loads going on back then, the early 80s, with the cricket ground and lots of students. We’d get all the England team coming into the store. It was a really good time.”

He then moved around a lot with the company, running its store in Whitby before arriving in Scarborough in 1983.

“The company like you to move around the stores when you are a manager but I met my wife Betsy here, she was a Scarborough girl, so I wanted to hang around. They allowed me to stay on as manager of the Scarborough branch.”

And stay at Scarborough he did, making it his home and dedicating his time to making the Woolworths store into the best it could be.

But in 1990 an opportunity came along which he could not say no to.

Burton Property Trust had been given permission to build a new £30m complex in the town – The Brunswick Pavilion Shopping Centre. The new centre marked a busy time for Jim as part of the plans involved moving the entrance to Woolworths about 30 feet, to where the entrance to Poundland is now situated.

“They came to me and asked me if I would like to be the manager for the shopping centre,” Jim recalls. “I had not been looking for other jobs but it was one of those opportunities that you just have to take.”

In 1990 the centre opened its doors to an expectant public for the first time, with the second phase coming a year later, bringing the whole centre online.

As manager of the Brunswick Jim would become a familiar face around town.

“Managing a shopping centre which gets around 6.5 million visitors through the door each year is hard work but very rewarding.

“What I enjoyed the most was not getting the big stores, it was working every day with the staff we had.

“I may have been the boss but we had some amazing staff over the years and now in retirement not being part of that team is the thing that I miss the most.

“There are a lot of things that I am proud of, the safety standards we set were amongst the highest in the country and we won awards for our health and safety work. We have 100 per cent occupation, which given how the economy is and how other shopping centres are struggling is a remarkable achievement.

“And this may sound strange but I like how clean and fresh the building looks. It is a product of the 80s but I don’t think it looks dated at all and that is something that we were keen to avoid.”

As a man who has overseen more than 30 years in the town centre what does he think 
the future holds for Scarborough?

“I think there is a bright 
future for Scarborough if I am being honest,” he said.

“The town centre has changed a lot in my time here, it is pedestrianised now for a start, you used to be able to drive down it when I first came here, but I think it has the right mix of well known stores and great local businesses to keep people coming.

“As a destination it will always have visitors but I think it has enough for people that live here and are happy to shop locally.

“It will need investment and backing but I do think it can succeed.”

Jim is now putting his years in the office and boardroom behind him and spending time with his family, and on the golf course, naturally.