Birmingham is not only the center of the West Midlands, but is also almost exactly in the middle of Great Britain. Leaving the lively metropolis to the east takes you through the heart of the British island. Distribution centers belonging to major companies, traditional farms, picturesque villages and small towns characterize the countryside of the neighboring county of Northamptonshire. Just before the town of Wellingborough, a blue Mercedes-Benz Citan appears. The delivery van with the “Millie’s Sandwiches” lettering approaches the town center from the direction of Rushden. The van drives along the banks of the Nene and passes the middle-age center of the town with 50,000 people, heading toward the industrial quarter were it parks next to another blue Citan. This is where Josefine and Bryan McCreery established the company last year, which has grown to include a delivery service, a catering service and Millie’s Café.
“It all began in 2006”, reminisces Bryan. “My wife and I were looking for a suitable place to set up our catering company. Because the rent in the town center was too high we started our delivery and catering service from a hall in the industrial quarter.” Millie’s Sandwiches delivered fresh, tasty sandwiches and other home-made delicacies to companies in a 20 mile radius at lunchtime. Millie’s quickly made a name for itself in the region with its quality and friendly service. Josefine and Bryan moved into a larger building and then opened Millie’s Café next to their production site. “The idea of the café was to create a place where both the boss and the employees felt comfortable and could enjoy a tasty sandwich, a pie or soup side-by-side”, says Brian. And the plan was a success: “After only a few weeks there was a humble compact car parked next to an expensive Ferrari in our parking area”, explains Bryan with a boyish grin.
The tasty aroma wafts out of Millie’s main building at 6 o’clock in the morning. “This is when the baker delivers our bread”, explains Bryan during a tour through the production hall. “The secret of our success is relatively simple: we use high quality products, from local suppliers whenever possible, and prepare everything freshly on the day it is sold.” Bryan himself primarily handles the administration and Josefine coordinates the team of 10 together with her managers. The café opens at 7 o’clock and our four drivers arrive at 9 o’clock. “Punctuality is extremely important for us – people have to be able to rely on us and know that the van will be there on time for lunch.” Five days a week, regardless of the weather. When it rains the drivers accompany the customers to their car with an umbrella or deliver the orders directly to the door.
In addition to their motivated teams, the McCreerys also rely on the performance of their two Mercedes-Benz Citan 109 CDIs. Bryan discovered the model thanks to a nearby intercounty dealer in Wellingborough – also a loyal Millie’s customer. “Mercedes-Benz stands for quality, just like Millie’s. That is why the Citan vans are perfect for us”, says Bryan, explaining his decision. “And when you make as many stops as our drivers every day then you use a lot of fuel. The energy-saving ECO start-stop system in this vehicle is perfect for our needs.” They have already ordered a third Citan and a fourth vehicle will expand the fleet in autumn. All of the delivery vehicles are equipped with an insulated, fiberglass cladding which provides the cargo area with the necessary insulation. “This vehicle is simply fantastic to drive”, says Bryan and his drivers enthusiastically. “The Citan is not cumbersome at all but rather light and agile like a passenger vehicle. We only had to get used to the blinker”, says Bryan with a laugh, “because it is on the wrong side of the steering wheel for the British.”
The last move and leaves its parking space and turns toward the town center at around 11 o’clock. The blue vans have now become Millie’s trademark and are a common sight on the roads around Wellingborough at lunchtime. Although the McCreerys and the team prefer the quiet life in Wellingborough to the bustle in England’s major cities such as Birmingham and London, they are convinced that the Millie’s business idea would also function in a metropolis. “Fresh food and good service – This concept is a success anywhere.”
Photos: © Ian Rob