I started in the grocery industry shortly after I turned 16. It was my first job and I still remember meeting the store director and other department managers, the training videos and shadowing other courtesy clerks for a day and even the store tour. Very quickly I grew to love my job. I loved talking to the customers and learning new skills. When I think back to those early years in the business, I can’t help but think about the influence the leaders and others who I worked with had on my love for the grocery business.
Here are some fun memories from those early years:
- My first uniform, a beige polo shirt featuring “exploding bags of groceries,” that too closely matched the maroon and navy-blue décor throughout the store. (I was not sad to move on from that shirt when I became a cashier.)
- As a courtesy clerk we were assigned different night tasks, things like floor sweeps, bathroom checks or filling the ice cream section in the freezer. One night, shortly after I started, I was assigned to “shake the salad dressing bottles.” Being the rule follower I am, I quickly headed to the aisle and began shaking the salad dressings. After a few minutes, the other courtesy clerks came over laughing and let me know it was a joke and I was officially initiated into the grocery business.
- My store director always walked around with a feather duster sticking out of his back pocket. He was always picking up pieces of trash or sweeping the “front porch” of the store first thing in the morning. From this, I learned to love and appreciate a great first impression.
- I loved my customers. When I worked early mornings, I had a few regular customers who would come in bright and early, every single morning. I loved seeing them, visiting with them and getting to know them.
I held many different roles while working in the stores. I started as a courtesy clerk and worked my way up to front-end manager. I worked in center store and loss prevention as well. When I moved into the corporate office, at age 25, I was excited for growth and to start a new career as a safety manager. It was there that I met many new “customers.” My customers moved from those shopping in my store, to the team members who worked in the store. My job was to support them and make sure they had what they needed to run a safe and successful store.
In 2009, I joined Associated Food Stores and became a DSD coordinator for the new banner Fresh Market. It was there I learned a whole new part of the business and gained appreciation for our back-end processes. Up to that point, I had always worked in customer-facing areas of the business and on the front end. This new role was more back end, I learned an entirely new part of the business that is critical to the success of our stores. In 2013, I moved back to the front end and was able to spend the next nine years working in various roles that supported the front-end teams, ecommerce and team support specialists. I had many opportunities and learned so much from the many teams I was able to work with and support.
In October of 2022, I moved into a new role, director of systems and integration. I was excited for this new opportunity for continued growth. It has been great getting to work in different areas of the business. Some of my responsibilities and my team’s responsibilities include, working on projects that include third-party partners, managing our inventory process and files, pricing, CGO, invoice processing, scan-based trading and working with the various departments to ensure they have the systems and equipment they need for their departments, and I get to work closely with the AFS I.T. Team.
I have worked in grocery retail for almost 25 years. Reflecting on those years in the business, I can’t help but be grateful for those first few years at the West Layton store. My first store director, Brian Waddoups, who recently retired from Dick’s Market in Centerville, taught me so much about passion and heart and taking pride in our everyday responsibilities. As I moved to different stores and worked in different positions, I continued to meet wonderful people who have become great friends and examples of all our company values that we hold onto today. I love this business because I love people and we are in the people business. No matter what position we hold, or where we work, we are all serving a customer. It might be a parent coming in to buy milk five minutes before we close, or the 6 a.m. guest coming to get their Starbucks.
It’s the department managers we support, or the store director who needs our help. Whether we work in retail, in the office, in the print shop, or the distribution center, we are all serving and supporting someone in different parts of the business. We influence more parts of the business and more people than we realize, which means we have an opportunity to make a difference and influence people for the better around us.
The holidays are my favorite time of year in the grocery business. Our stores are filled with the most amazing smells (those cinnamon pinecones get me every time), the most beautiful poinsettia plants, cases of Christmas oranges, fun gifts to purchase and the best holiday displays. We have fun Santa events scheduled and our stores become the holiday destination for our communities. This time of year, we bring people together with what we have to offer and are the center of family and friend gatherings.
I am grateful for the many friendships I have gained over the years. The many stores I have worked in, and the various departments I have been able to work with. I have gained lifelong friendships and learned from the best. I am grateful to each one of you and appreciate all you do every day to make our stores the best of the best! We have the best team. I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!