Don Kraft admits to having mixed feelings as he is about to end a 44-year career with Co-op retailers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, including the last 27 years as the general manager in Weyburn.
The Prairie Sky Co-operative Association will hold a public meet-and-greet for Kraft on Thursday, March 28, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Weyburn food store.
His career began in 1975 as a management trainee in North Battleford, and he became manager of the Cut Knife branch for the Battlefords Co-op the next year. Three years later, he was made the agro manager in North Battleford, and in 1984 he made the move to Swift Current to become the operations manager with Pioneer Co-op.
Kraft moved his family to Edmonton in 1988, where he worked as a retail advisor for Federated Co-operative, and in 1991 he made his final move, coming to Weyburn as the general manager.
In his years here, Kraft has overseen the addition of Lang, Milestone and Beaubier Co-op stores under the Prairie Sky umbrella, and he has served as a management mentor to managers in other smaller Co-ops, such as in Radville, Pangman and Stoughton.
“It’s been my goal that we should have the best facilities in the community, and we’ve achieved that with the exception of the Home Centre,” said Kraft.
He has overseen the upgrading of nearly every Co-op facility in Weyburn and in the satellite towns. This included moving the store out of the former McKinnon’s department store building (now the MNP building downtown), making major renovations to the food store as well as the Suds City location and the Maintrack location at the intersection of Highways 39 and 13, and developing the Metro Centre. The Metro Centre has since been sold, along with the Expressions retail store.
Kraft added he’s proud he’s been able to add some innovations, such as Weyburn’s first touchless car wash at the Suds City location.
He paid tribute to the vision and support of the Co-op board of directors and management team members he’s worked with over the years, as they have stood behind him while he’s led in making some major changes to how the Co-op stores were operated in the city.
“While I’ve been here, it’s changed dramatically. The things we’ve achieved here couldn’t have been done by one person. It’s taken a team effort to do it,” said Kraft. “I’m very proud of what our team has accomplished, and I’m very pleased with the support we’ve received from Weyburn and district.”
He had been pondering making the move towards retirement in recent year, but he noted it was a family meeting that cinched it for him, particularly a comment from one of his children.
“They were encouraging me to think about retirement, and I said I had one more project I wanted to get done first. One of my children said, ‘Dad, you’ll always have one more project, so you can’t wait until they’re all done.’ That was true,” said Kraft, chuckling as he admitted this comment helped him decided to retire.