Twenty years ago, I “officially” started my career in grocery retail at Dan’s Foothill as a dairy clerk. I say, officially, because I’m a retail kid. I grew up in a grocery store, always visiting my dad at work at Dan’s Foods grocery stores.  

Once I became old enough to follow simple instructions and tasks, my dad “hired” me to do odd jobs around his store, such as painting the curbs in the parking lot and mowing the strip of grass on the side of the store. I also recall helping make fruit baskets and bagging groceries during the holidays. So, naturally, after high school, I got a job in retail. At the time, I thought it would be temporary until I finished college. Little did I know that I would enjoy everything about retail, and eventually make a career out of it. I enjoyed the interaction with customers, I loved the people I worked with, and I enjoyed learning store operations. I learned quickly that it takes a big crew to run a store and that we all had to work together, everyone playing their part. 

Recently, I went to see the movie, “The Boys in the Boat”. The Boys in the Boat is an inspiring story, based on events surrounding a young rowing team. Sharon Eubank gives a great summary of this story.  

In 1936, an obscure rowing team from the University of Washington traveled to Germany to participate in the Olympic Games. It was the depths of the Great Depression. These were working-class boys whose small mining and lumber towns donated bits of money so they could travel to Berlin. Every aspect of the competition seemed stacked against them, but something happened in the race. In the rowing world, they call it “swing.” Listen to this description based on the book The Boys in the Boat: There is a thing that sometimes happens that is hard to achieve and hard to define. It’s called “swing.” It happens only when all are rowing in such perfect unison that not a single action is out of sync. Rowers must rein in their fierce independence and at the same time hold true to their individual capabilities. Races are not won by clones. Good crews are good blends—someone to lead the charge, someone to hold something in reserve, someone to fight the fight, someone to make peace. No rower is more valuable than another, all are assets to the boat, but if they are to row well together, each must adjust to the needs and capabilities of the others—the shorter-armed person reaching a little farther, the longer-armed person pulling in just a bit. Differences can be turned to advantage instead of disadvantage. Only then will it feel as if the boat is moving on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. Good “swing” feels like poetry. Against towering obstacles, this team found perfect swing and won the Olympic gold. 

In anticipation of writing this message, I couldn’t help but think about “One AFS” and the swing we have created within our company. We have a great crew, and ALL are an asset to our success. Just like in the boat, where every stroke of the oar pushed the team forward, your individual efforts contribute to the overall success of our company. Each job or task, no matter how small it may seem, is a vital part of our operation. From our CEO who leads the charge, to the courtesy clerk who carefully bags groceries for our guests, and to EVERYONE in between, your dedication and contribution matters.  

THANK YOU for all that you do! We see you; we appreciate you, and we are grateful you are on our team. 

Candice Fischer is the director of customer relationship management at Associated Retail Operations.