Shoppers’ Fleming retiringBy BY RECARDO THOMAS STAFF REPORTER,
One of Shoppers Value Foods “everyday essentials” is checking out.
For more than half a century the name Grace Fleming has been a staple when it comes to great customer service and now after 53 years in the grocery business, she is saying “so long” to her beloved co-workers and customers.
Fleming said although she is retiring, she is not going away.
“I’ll still be here in town, I’m not moving, I’ll be here to stay in contact with all of my customers. I am a customer person,” she said. The effervescent retiree stressed that she is still in good health and does not intend to just sit down.
According to Fleming, she plans to spend her new-found free time baking, cooking, traveling and visiting family. Even with that it will not keep her from those friendships she has been forming for decades. “I love all of my customers. I am going to miss my customers, I enjoyed all of my customers over the years,” she said.
She moved to Indianola in 1966 and her friend and neighbor, Bill King, who was the manager of the then Sunflower Food Store, offered her a job and the rest is her-story.
When Fleming began working for the grocer, the store was located farther west on U.S. 82, and on the south side of the street where Young Ideas is now located.
She said that many of the long-time patrons have always been able to contact her by phone and affirmed that she will still be able to help get them taken care of even though she will no longer be employed at the store. “I’ll be here for them if they need me for anything,” she said.
Not only has Fleming’s customers earned a place in her heart; she also has a carved niche for the store’s owners. “The Millers have been super to me. They have just been phenomenal to work for, they have always had my back, always been there for me and treated me with the utmost respect and I appreciate them for that,” said Fleming.
Fleming said she has always gotten along with her fellow workers especially those that did their jobs and they have expressed that they will miss her as much as she will miss them.
Barbara Tharpe, a Shoppers Value Foods team member, said Fleming will be greatly missed by everyone. Tharpe, who has worked with Fleming for the past 51 years said, “She was great to work with. She cared a lot about her team members.”
Fleming insists that she has loved her years at the store and would not trade them for anything even though some of her experiences involved encounters with some ne’er-do-wells. “I have been through it with shoplifters, been called every name in the book for doing my job,” she said.
Many of her co-workers joined her on Thursday for a lively sendoff and even convinced Fleming to reluctantly don a Hawaiian hula dancer’s garb, which was a testament to Fleming’s fun-loving nature and spoke well of her relationship with the workers.
Store manager, Jason Fleming said the senior Fleming is a valuable asset to the store and will be extremely missed.
Reflecting on Fleming’s tenure with the company, Jason said jokingly, “She’s got to be the original Sally Sunflower.” He said nowadays it is almost unheard of for someone to stay with a company that long.