Retiring after 42 years

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Erickson's produce manager Butch Ayres

   After 42 years in the produce business, Erickson's Sentry Market Product Manager Butch Ayres will be retiring May 30.
   "It's the end of an era," said store manager Dan Walston. "Butch Ayres is as much a part of this store as the front, and he's worked here since right before it was built. Among the independent grocery stores he's also one of the last old-style green grocers. He can tell you anything you want to know about all of those products."
   The grocery business came naturally to Ayres, since his dad ran a grocery store in Powell Butte when he was growing up. He began stocking shelves at the Madras Erickson's in 1961, and soon switched to produce. Other than two years served in the Army in the 60s, he has worked in the store's produce department ever since.
   Ayres said he has been at the store so long that he had to train his own manager.
   "I trained Dan Walston in produce when he was a young kid," Ayres chuckled.
   Somewhat of a workaholic, Ayres has only missed one week of work in 42 years, except for six weeks following open-heart surgery 14 years ago.
   He has loved the produce business and enjoyed meeting and talking to all the customers over the years.
   But this year he decided the time was right. "I'm 65 and I just feel I need to get out, it's time to go," he said.
   Ayres said he plans to rest for four months, work around his place in Madras, then he and his wife will enjoy traveling up to Washington to visit relatives.
   Proud of the produce department he has built, Ayres said, "Bill Summers, my assistant, and I demand that if a customer doesn't like what we have out, we'll go in the back and get what they want. The number one thing is one-on-one customer service, top quality and good pricing."
   He mentioned that they have had people from Portland and Washington, who come to Central Oregon, stop at the Madras Erickson's to buy produce because of the quality of their selection.
   Summers has been the assistant produce manager for 27 years and will take over when Ayres retires.
   "It's been a wonderful job, I've had wonderful people to work with, and had great training at produce seminars," Ayres said, adding, "I'm very proud to have had this job and department."
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