Long-serving staff at Corr’s Corner Hotel - who between them have notched up more than 200 years of service - have marked the milestone of 20 years working for the McKeever family.
Since 1993 when Eugene and Catherine McKeever bought the landmark hostelry, they have transformed it from a roadhouse employing 32 people to a major to 68-bedroom hotel with function rooms, now employing 70 people, mainly from the local area.
“I’m so proud of all of our staff who helped us achieve so much in the past 20 years. On the very first day I bought Corr’s I sat alone in the office and thought ‘What have I done? Will I still be here in a year?’ But the team here has played such a huge role in the success of the business and I just want to thank them for their hard work,” Eugene said.
Of the 70 staff, eight have been at Corr’s Corner for 20 years or more, while others have been employed there 10 to 15 years.
Karen Agnew from Newtownabbey, who is now conference manager, started as a ‘Docket Woman’ - her job was to collect all the dockets from the serving staff and make sure everything was charged correctly.
“Things were so different back then - that job doesn’t even exist now as it’s all computerised. Corr’s has grown so much and changed with the times,” Karen said.
Head chef Jason Gault started at Corr’s when he was just 17 as a kitchen porter. At 21 he took over as head chef and has been in the role for 22 years.
“We went from a small bar/restaurant to a hotel with function rooms over those years. We now have a much bigger kitchen team because we’re serving from 7am until 10pm,” he said.
Kitchen workers Jean Leitch, from Mossley, and Molly Cully, from Richmond, both joined Corr’s in 1985 and have formed a firm friendship over the years.
“We’re like a big family here and that’s what I love about it,” said Jean. “Eugene has worked really hard to build Corr’s up into what it is and we think he’s done brilliantly.”
Eugene’s first glimpse of Corr’s was as a young boy who had been sent to weed the roses across the street from the roadhouse.
John Corr saw Eugene and his brother Gerry hard at work and sent chicken sandwiches over to them every day. He saw how hard they worked and when the brothers came looking for a job, he started them straight away.
In 1966, when Eugene was just 12 he began work in the bar before training as a chef. He was head chef for 11 years but decided he wanted to start his own business. He said to his boss and friend John that he would be back to buy him out in a few years.
Now the family also owns the Dunsilly Hotel in Antrim and the Adair Arms Hotel in Ballymena.
“I’ve been lucky - I’ve had the support of a great team of staff and am so thankful to have been supported by the public over all of these years, many of whom have been coming for generations.
“But my family has also played a huge part in the business. Catherine and I are proud that our daughter Bridgene joined us as marketing manager several years ago and our son Eddie has just started as group operations manager.
“They’re the next generation and with their support we will move the company forward and continue to expand without losing the ethos of a family business,” he said.