A great-gran believed to be Britain’s oldest shop worker is still working three shifts a week at the grand age of 96 – and has no plans to retire.
Irene Astbury opened Pet Food Supplies Ltd in Macclesfield, Cheshire in March 1981 and she is still working there more than 40 years on.
She prices up items behind the till, looks after the company’s invoices and keeps an eye on the rest of her employees.
Up until the pandemic, Irene worked five days a week at the pet supplies store at the age of 94.
But due to her family struggling to get her to work, great-grandmother-of-seven Irene now works 25 and a half hours a week over three days.
Irene, whose own gran lived to be 102, said: “I’m not giving up until they tell me clear off. I have nothing better to do, I want to keep my eye on them all.
“It’s better than sitting at home and moping and I can keep my eye on all of the younger ones.
“I can still be on my feet, and that’s what matters.
“I’ve got no plans to stop going – or I can’t keep my eye on them all then.
“I don’t want to be sat at home.
“I enjoy it, I enjoy the company and the customers.”
Irene first opened the shop – then a launderette – with her late husband Les in March 1981. They converted it to a pet shop soon after.
At first she worked full-time, while also working as a homemaker in the mornings and evenings.
When Les died in 2007, her two grandchildren Gayle Parks, 36, and Stuart Parks, 33, became partners with her.
Gayle now runs the shop while Irene, who lives with her only daughter Lynn on a farm in Sandbach, Cheshire,. works as much as she can.
Gayle said: “We joke that she says ‘have I got to look at these four walls for much longer, how many more days until I’m back at the shop?’
“She gets bored easily at home when she is just sat there watching the telly, so she much prefers to be at work.”
Gayle said that Irene is practically ‘part of the furniture’ but is also an ‘inspiration.’
She said: “I always say that she is part of the furniture because so many people come to the office to say hello to her.
“We have generations of customers coming in, they remember nana when they first opened, and then she has watched their families grow up.
“There’s some customers who have bought from us for 40 years, and now it is their children or their grandchildren coming in.
“She always asks about them and remembers them.
“There’s one customer whose daughter when travelling abroad, and one worked in McDonalds, and she will always ask how they are.
“Sometimes customers bring photographs in, or show her pictures.
“She always asks about certain families, and how their children are doing.”
“I think she is an inspiration, and if my four children can follow in nana’s footsteps, after seeing her work ethic, then I think that’s good.”