Woodstock man retires after 45 years with Walmart

Dave Kaufman, pictured, retired May 1 after 45 years working with Walmart in Woodstock and across Canada. Kaufman started working for Walmart predecessor Woolco after school when he was 17. (Kathleen Saylors/Woodstock Sentinel-Review)

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When a 17-year-old Dave Kaufman started working at a Woolco store in Woodstock in 1975, he said had no idea how far that after-school job would take him. 

Now, 45 years later, Kaufman celebrated his official retirement from Walmart on May 1. 

“I started on July 24, 1974, before the old Woolco store on Highway 2 opened up. I was hired for part-time maintenance, after-school type thing, and helped get the store started up,” Kaufman said. 

Kaufman went for an interview at what was then a Woolco store – the Canadian predecessor to Walmart – at the same time as his mother, and both were hired within 10 minutes of each other. As it happens, it’s only the second job Kaufman has ever had – the first, a paperboy for the Woodstock Sentinel-Review. 

A few short years later, Kaufman was promoted – he was his mother’s boss at work for a time – and asked to attend an employee training program. It was the start of something that would see him live and work across Canada.

“I got asked to go to stores all the time and help them get cleaned up,” Kaufman said. “I got to see a good chunk of Canada and live in different areas. I just liked seeing all the stores, the communities. I met thousands and thousands of people from all over.”

Over the years, Kaufman said he’s lived and worked in Winnipeg, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie. When Walmart purchased Woolco in its Canadian expansion, he visited more stores – more than 40 in his career. That, and the addition of groceries to Walmart stores, are the two biggest changes he’s seen over the years.

“The transition from Woolco to Walmart was huge. It was a different way of doing business, so we had to learn everything all over again. That was a big change. The other big change was the groceries. I’d never dealt  with groceries so we had to learn all that. … It was a big change as well.

Kaufman said he worked nights for the bulk of his career as the store’s assistant manager. He liked the job because he got to ready the store for customers the next day.

“I liked leading people. You can see the difference from when you walk in to when you go home. I like to see what we accomplished as a team,” Kaufman said. “(The company) has been great to me and I just loved doing the job.”

He picked up a nickname, too – the “Paper King” – because stocking the toilet paper and paper towels would be his task as he supervised the other staff.

Though he was originally scheduled to retire this July, he decided it was time to pull the trigger when the pandemic hit since his daughter is an essential worker and his granddaughter is out of school.

When things get back to normal post-COVID-19, Kaufman hopes to hit the golf course again.

“I plan on taking up golf again and of course lots to do around the house and the yard, so I’ll be busy,” Kaufman said with a chuckle.