We've been looking back and have very fond memories of our time in Bryan Street, Hanley, right next to old The Place nightclub.
One upon a time, over 30 years ago, November 1988 to be specific, Paul and Jean Beech opened the doors to Connect Travel for the very first time. Bryan Street, was famous for the address of The Place nightclub and the area of the town was quite busy back in the 80’s. The Potteries Shopping Centre had recently opened, and the city was in its heyday. The property in Bryan street was chosen for its passing trade, and proximity to the shopping centre and famous nightclub.
Paul and Jean, having both fifteen years travel experience each, decided that a fully, independent travel agency in the city would be beneficial to clients, as other travel agencies in the area were generally tied to specific operators.
The shop was vast, with enough space for a large five-desk sales counter, back offices and a dedicated worldwide flight only area.
Thick, seasonal travel brochures lined the many shelves in the office and included historical tour operators such as, Thomson, Horizon, and Cosmos.Nowadays, whilst you can still pick up a brochure, they are now mainly paperless and are downloaded on the internet. Much better for the environment!
Back in 1988, the internet didn’t exist and everybody needed the use of a travel agency to book their flights, family holidays and itineraries. Staff had to use a system called “Viewdata” on small-screen computers and clients would call into the office and sit, drinking coffee whilst staff found their ideal holiday. It's hard not to be drawn into the excitement of booking a holiday for somebody.
The locally famous, potters holidays, still existed in the area and we can remember the hectic, booking period prior to the pot banks June, annual shut-down.
Staff would be inundated with last minute enquiries, clients queuing out of the door, and the words “what ya’ got for potters mate” said on a regular basis. Closing the door at 6pm on a Saturday evening would be a welcome relief to the staff and a cheeky pint at Yates pub was a regular staff thing.
Square deals, now a thing of the past, were a very popular choice for clients wanting a last minute “cheapy” getaway. Clients would pick their destination, duration and hotel standard, but the rest was a mystery until you arrived at the airport!
We can still recall the very best, cheapest deal ever known. £119 for 11 nights in Majorca on a half board deal. Wow, them were the days!
Connect Travel hosted many events in the city, cruise promotional evenings, mystery coach trips, and even a blind date contest at the old Yates pub in Hanley! Paul encouraged our staff to be social and network in the area and Connect Travel had a vast client database. Many families still book with us to this day!
Over just a short period of time, Connect had massive growth and a third partner Sue Egerton, was brought in to open two new shops in Milton and Kidsgrove. At its peak in the nighties, Connect employed over 17 staff members over its three branches, ten of which were employed at the Bryan Street office. It was very much a family run business, with Paul’s sister Wendy and Jean and Paul’s daughter, Vikki, employed at the head office. All staff members became great friends of the Beech family and we can still remember our fun-filled training nights out to this day!
It was during the mid-nighties that James Wilbraham, Angela Day (now Wilbraham) joined the company as junior sales staff. Now married, they can thank Connect Travel and their time at Bryan Street for their initial "Connection" (see what we did there!)
We spent the best part of twenty years in Hanley but fast-forward twenty (odd) years and James and his now wife, Angela brought the company off Paul Beech, after his wife Jean sadly passed away.
Connect Travel moved to The Genesis Centre, Tunstall in 2009 to modernize the business. Vikki, still works for the company as group travel co-coordinator and manager of finances and so the company still has its roots connected to its founding start in Bryan Street, Hanley.
Get in touch if you used to book with us, we'd love to hear from you.
James, Vikki & Ange.