HORSHAM'S Tony Hofmaier was given a special send-off last Friday after 36 years of work in Horsham's retail industry.
Staff and customers at Bunnings Horsham gave Mr Hofmaier a standing ovation as he took off his apron for the last time and left the store with three grandchildren in tow.
Mr Hofmaier said it was an unexpected but delightful end to his final shift.
"I had no idea that was going to happen - it was fantastic, absolutely great," he said.
"I'm not sure if it has ever been done before, but it was certainly a pretty amazing thing for everyone to do for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it."
Mr Hofmaier started working at the hardware store in 1985 after moving into Horsham from a family-farm at Hopetoun.
He saw the store transition from Weights Mitre 10, to Dahlsens, and finally to Bunnings.
Mr Hofmaier said he had always enjoyed his job, and would miss his coworkers and customers the most.
"In my 36 years I've probably worked with nearly 300 people. That's been great, and I'm definitely going to miss my workmates," he said.
"The customers too have been fantastic. You become really friendly with the customers over a period that long.
"Monday mornings during the footy season were probably the toughest for me, because if Collingwood had lost, there would be people lining up at the door to tell me about it.
"But if they won, I'd have a few regulars coming in to talk about it too.
"I'm going to miss that bond with people in the community."
Among many enjoyable moments, Mr Hofmaier said the sale of a particular lawnmower was one of his funniest memories.
"As someone was selling the mower, he said to this young couple, 'take it home, top it up with oil, and fill it up with juice'," Mr Hofmaier said.
"The couple brought it back on Monday and said they couldn't get it going. Problem was, they had filled it up with orange juice. That's a true story."
Mr Hofmaier said the biggest change across the 36 years was undoubtedly the introduction of computers.
"When I first started, we used to write all the invoices out with pen and paper," he said.
"I remember John Weight introducing computers in roughly 1995, and people were cracking fits with it.
"One of our builders on the first day it was introduced said he'd never be back again.
"But the technology has improved a lot and helped the customers. The customers too are a lot smarter these days with what they want and what price it should be, because of the technology they have access to."
But while the operational side of the business may have changed, Mr Hofmaier said a connection with the community remained the most important part.
"I've seen customers punching on, I've seen teammates punching on - it's been one hell of a journey," Mr Hofmaier said.
"But it's just been fantastic working there. Working with the community, that is always going to remain the most important thing in retail. You have to look after people in the community."
As for what is next, Mr Hofmaier and wife Lyn said they were waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to ease before taking the caravan for a long trip through across Victoria.
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