UK: Flower Market’s Bob Cooley retires after 53 years’ service

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Well-known Flower Market face Bob Cooley retires from plant wholesaler L Mills today (Friday 24/5), after a career spent working for a host of businesses within the old and new Covent Gardens.

Known to many of his Flower Market colleagues as ‘Bob Bacon’ – not for his love of bacon sarnies but because he started his career with ANF Bacon (now GB Foliage) – Bob has been a mainstay of the Flower Market since he first joined in 1971 at the old Covent Garden – before the move to Nine Elms in 1974. As well as the aforementioned ANF Bacon and current employer L Mills, Bob has worked for Blackburns (part of the Donovan Group), Baker & Diguid, Skeens, and Dutch business Warmerdam.

“In all, I’ve completed 53 years in the Flower Market,” says Bob, “and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’ll be a sad goodbye to some good friends, but I’m ready for a change. This is the beginning of the third part in my life story – I’ve been to school, been to work, and now I’m starting a new chapter with my retirement.”

It’s the end of an era for both Bob and L Mills, a company that has been in the market for more than 100 years and will now sell its produce via wholesalers Pratley’s and Quality Plants. “I’ve run the L Mills business single-handedly since 2016, when my long-term colleague Billy Cher retired,” says Bob. “Bill gave me the confidence to run it on my own and I really enjoyed it, although it’s sometimes been hard as a one-man band. The job satisfaction has been amazing over the years, and I must thank all the great workers down at L Mills’ nursery, and the owner Iain Mills for all their support.”

Bob has plenty of ideas for how he’s going to spend his retirement: “I’m planning on starting at night school to learn how to sleep like everyone else!” jokes Bob. “I’m so used to working night shifts for the past 50 years that it’ll take some getting used to. When the Flower Market was closed during the Covid lockdown, I kept my regimen going, working out, gardening, and keeping healthy.” Putting aside the jokes and smiles that Bob’s well known for, he reveals that his retirement aims will see him divide his time between keeping fit, astronomy and seeing more of his grandchildren.

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