A Family Affair
Age is Just a Number
At 88 years young and after 67 years in business, Les Dale, proud owner of Dale’s IGA Henty remains the driving force behind the family business.
The Dale family have been serving the community of Henty for as long as anyone can remember. At 88 years young, Les has been in business for 67 years and with four generations working and involved in Dale’s IGA, they remain as committed as ever to supporting their local community.
Les got his first taste of retail in his childhood while travelling around by horse and cart selling gallons of milk produced on his parents’ dairy farm. In 1953, at age 19 Les saw the lengths Henty locals were going to get their hands on fresh milk, so he opened a milk bar to serve the locals.
In 1960, Les’ business was going well, so he expanded to a bigger site on the main street. It was there that he opened Henty’s very first self-service store, which at the time was groundbreaking. Prior to that customers had to be served from behind the counter – you couldn’t just go in and grab what you needed. Working from 9am to 9pm 354 days a year, this store slowly evolved and expanded into an adjoining store, offering groceries, liquor, toys, and hardware to what the business is today.
More than 60 years on, the entire family proudly continue to serve the local community, operating three separate stores in town – the IGA, a hardware store, and an electrical store. Les’ daughter Narelle and her son Jason run the IGA, Ken Les’ son runs the electrical store, and you will find Les’ great grandchildren working behind the checkouts during the school holidays. They employ 30 local staff all of whom are more like family than employees and many who have spent their entire working life in store.
Hidden beneath the floorboards the supermarket is ‘Dales Cellar Mini Museum’ a treasure trove of artefacts and memorabilia from the past that is free for anyone to visit. Along the crowded shelves sit items that tell the story of a growing town, including Henty’s manual telephone exchange, a two wheeled stretcher that was the towns first ambulance, cash registers, irons, radios and much more.
Like the museum below the store, Les is a keeper of Henty’s history. A well-known and well-loved man, who is an integral part of the community, Les has instilled a love for Henty in his entire family. When it comes to supporting the local community, whether it is the footy club or the local school, there isn’t much that Dale’s IGA isn’t involved in. You will also find the entire family rolling up their sleeves for the CWA, Lions Club and as first responders in the local volunteer Fire Brigade.
It wasn’t that long ago that Les was still working 40 hours a week in his beloved store. Although he no longer works full time, the patriarch if this family still runs the hardware and you will find him opening the store every Saturday morning without fail, proving that age really just is a number.