After over 37 years working as a butcher with Coles supermarkets, STEVEN HARKER will work his last shift at the Winston Hills store today (October 8th).
Steven was meat manager at the Winston Hills Coles when the store first opened its doors in December 1998 and has greeted thousands of customers during that time.
“Some (would) even come and say hello, even if they weren’t buying meat”, he said. He grew up in Castle Hill, went to Baulkham Hills High, and was 16 when he started his first job at Castle Hill Coles in June 1985.
After six months of working as a junior retail assistant in the grocery department, he was asked if he would consider doing a butchers apprenticeship through Coles.
He decided getting a trade was a great way to get qualified and took the opportunity, doing his faull apprenticeship at the North Rocks store between 1986 and 1989.
Steven took over as a meat manager in 1988 and those days he and his team of up to six staff would work in an enclosed room with a viewing window for customers to see through.
“In those times, meat was being cut in all stores and there was a lot more physical lifting and cleaning to be done,” he said. With very early starts and many long days, he would come home exhausted but always happy to see his family.
He worked at several Coles stores until he started work at the newly opened Winston Hills store on December 14, 1998. He says his best memories are of the staff and the amazing staff socials during the years.
“Thirty-seven years have been more than half of my life,” he said. “Coles is where I made a lot of my friends. I will miss the interaction that left me with some really good memories.”
He says the biggest changes he has faced have been from cutting the meat in the store to pre-package meat in 2002 and the staff cuts.
He loves reading about horse racing history, loves sport on TV (he enjoyed cheering on the Panthers to their win in the NRL Grand final) and can’t wait to get back to watching his kids play sport again.
While he plans to take some time off after Friday and enjoy a more leisurely start to the day, he will also be looking for work.
Meanwhile, he plans to spend more time with his wife Bernice, their six children (aged between 34 and 15) and two granddaughters, Kyra (9) and Tianna (6).
The man they call “PoppyHotDog” has a lot of BBQs planned after October 11 and will be back in his beloved caravan soon.
“I can’t wait to get the caravan back up to Coffs Harbour at Christmas time and enjoy life,” he said.