Nichol Checks off 50 years at ATL

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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AFTER five decades with Appliance Traders Limited (ATL), Checks Nichol has earned the rightful title as one of 'The Pioneers'.

Lauded earlier this year at the company's golden anniversary celebration along with three other long-standing team members — Errol Lee, Keith Johnson and Carl Ennis — Nichol shares he wouldn't change a thing about his ATL journey, as “after 50 years, I'm still as excited about this place as I was on day one”.

Hired in 1968 by founder Gordon “Butch” Stewart, he recalls his first day in great detail.

“Back then, ATL was located on Marescaux Road and I went there seeking employment. I met Mr Stewart the first day I came in and he asked me about my skills and I told him I had some experience with masonry. Immediately, he said he had a job for me and I was sent with a team on a van to cut walls to complete the installation of Fedders air conditioning window units,” said Nichol.

Nichol said his first assignment gave new meaning to a hard day's work.

“I had been working with my aunt as a cook in her restaurant on East Queen Street, downtown [Kingston], so I was a bit out of practice with masonry. If I was expected to do well at ATL, I had to brush up on my skills, but after the first day I could not hold anything in my hands! Back then there were no electrical drills, so mason work was done with a hammer and chisel. My hands were filled with bruises and boils.

“I wasn't daunted though, I still went in the next day and the day after that, and the day after that. That's how I started life at ATL,” he chuckled.

Young and curious, Nichol quickly took to learning outside of his trade, moving from being a mason to a technician.

“I began as a mason but there were so many opportunities for learning and I wanted to do more. I would watch the technicians on their installations until I learned how to do installations and troubleshooting, moving up the ranks over the years from mason to junior technician then to a full-fledged technician,” he recounted.

As the business expanded and his own work responsibilities grew, so did his shifts.

The jobs were plenty but for Nichol it meant two things: An opportunity to develop his new skills and a steady means to provide for his growing family. It also helped that his boss was a constant source of motivation.

“We worked long days, sometimes 12-14 hour shifts, but no matter where we went to work or what time we arrived back at the office, Mr Stewart was there waiting to ensure everything was alright with us and another check-in to say we got to our respective homes safely,” he said.

Nichol recalled an instance, in particular, where the team called on the inspiration of Stewart.

“We did a job in Montego Bay that took us about two days and on our way back, we got a call from the boss to say he needed us to head back to Montego Bay to get another job done for him,” Nichol laughed. “We told him the clothes and supplies we had expired and he said to us, 'Don't worry about that, a van is on its way with some supplies and enough money will be in the kitty to get some food and a change of clothes'.”

And just like that, Nichol recalled how motivated the team was to return to Montego Bay and complete the task, “he never left you out in the cold and always knew how to get things done”.

Fast-forward to 2018, Nichol serves as a technical supervisor and quality assurance officer. He jokingly also considers himself a “small engineer”, given that the interdisciplinary nature of his current job calls for days of interfacing with engineered systems that Appliance Traders Limited retails.

Although his titles have changed over his 50-year stint, he maintains that the company's strong family values remain constant.

“When I joined Mr Stewart told us all, 'ATL is a family'. He told us this business is for us all and that is something that has stuck with me to this day,” he asserted.

The opportunity to teach is also one of the rewards Nichol has held close over the years.

“I came here in my early twenties, so young, so inexperienced, and all of my learning has come from ATL — about life and about my trade. I make it a point of duty to share that knowledge with our young apprentice technicians because I know what it is like starting out. You need someone who understands and who is willing to teach. Mr Stewart had that patience and took a chance on me so I am paying it forward,” he proudly shared.

Nichol, like many, considers ATL their company and home away from home, working together to provide the best service in Jamaica.

“I've never looked for another job and as long as health prevails and Mr Stewart will have me, I'll be here for another 50 years,” he said.

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