Steamboat Springs The numbers on the clock in Chuck King's office are not where they're supposed to be. They lie jumbled behind the glass at the bottom of the clock as if someone violently shook them from their proper positions. The phrase "Who cares?" is printed across the face.
"That's the way the day goes," King said, speaking to the hectic nature of the supermarket business. "You have to keep it lighthearted; trust me."
If longevity is a measure of success, King's lighthearted approach certainly has worked. The 59-year-old assistant manager of City Market in Steam-boat Springs is retiring after 36 years in the business.
Working in a small town, King has gotten to know many of his customers. As he checked out customers Wednesday, some of them asked how many days he had left and said he would be missed.
"We're going to have a tough time in three days," a bagger at the next aisle chimed in.
It's these people, both customers and staff, King said he would miss the most when he retires.
"Hopefully I'll get around town enough to see them at their jobs for a change, which will be nice," King said.
King began his supermarket career in 1971 at a King Soopers store in Denver. He transferred to the City Market in Steamboat 10 years ago. Kroger operates both supermarket chains. King, a husband and father of three grown boys, says he plans to stay put following his retirement.
"We planned to retire here even before I got the job here," King said. "I'm just going to chill out and enjoy Steamboat."
That's something King hasn't always been able to do with his work schedule. One of his goals for retirement is to take advantage of all the festivals and other events he has always had to miss.
"For example, I've never seen the Fourth of July parade because I've always worked the Fourth of July," King said. "There's so much going on that I've missed that I'll get to see."
In more than three decades, King has seen his business transformed, from the products on the shelves to the technology in the checkout aisles. He noted how scanners transformed the business, eliminating the need to manually key in every purchase, and said the popularity of bottled water continues to amaze him.
King's coworkers said both his knowledge and his attitude would be greatly missed.
"I don't know what we're going to do without him," said Bob Dunham, a clerk at City Market for the past 20 years. "I'm just happy to know there is going to be a life after City Market."
Connie Henry, who works behind the customer service desk at City Market, said King has always been a great boss and a good sport. She made him a hat reading "Retired old fart" that King was gracious enough to wear around the store.
"I'll miss him because I'm always playing jokes on him," Henry said.
Henry said she and other employees would post fliers in the store with King's phone number and advertising things such as a condo for sale or garage cleaning.
Far from letting the pranks get the best of him, King is said to have saved all the false fliers for a scrapbook.
In his final days on the job, King said he was ready for retirement. He said it was a great 36 years, and was thankful to the company, the current store manager and one other person in particular.
"I'd really be remiss if I didn't thank my wife for her understanding," King said. "In this business, you can never be sure. There were a lot of missed dinners and cold dinners."