PIQUA — Turns out Friday the 13th isn’t always bad luck.
Take Sheila Thomas for instance. The Piqua resident started her job with Troy Kroger 38 years ago — on Friday, April 13, 1978 — and said she still feels lucky.
However, Thomas said getting the job did present a few bumps along the road — literally. She, along with her husband of 40 years, Wayne, drove four hours from New Philadelphia for her to fill out a job application after finding out the Piqua store, where they were relocating, wasn’t taking applications. But when they got to the Troy store, they were out of applications and they Thomases were told to come back. They made the drive again a week later, only to find out that again the store had not received the applications.
“I said ‘I want to talk to the manager,’” said Thomas, who said the manager took her basic information.
The call for the job came four weeks later.
“They hired me without me ever filling out an application,” she said, laughing.
Thomas said the first Kroger store, located where Troy’s True Value Hardware is now, started out much simpler than the stores of today with about five aisles and three registers.
In February 1979, Thomas was part of the team that opened the second Kroger that was located where Miami-Jacobs is today. With the new store came change.
“At the old store, we used the registers where you pushed the buttons down and pulled the levers. The new store had scanners,” said Thomas, who said she enjoys sewing, cooking and making quilts.
With more room, the store also had twice as many aisles, registers and more products. The new store also brought with it new departments — a deli, bakery and pharmacy.
“We thought we had hit the jackpot,” she said, jokingly.
Throughout the years, Thomas said she has learned to do many of the jobs within the grocery store, including file maintenance, which is hanging the tags for the products, working in the gas station and the U-scan. However, she loves being a cashier most.
The third Troy Kroger, which just closed its doors Jan. 27, was open for 27 years, Thomas believes. Moving to that location brought even more change, she said.
Besides a cheese shop with specialty cheeses, this store had a Chinese restaurant with a sit-down area and even an ice cream parlor when it opened, Thomas said. The store later went through a remodel and both were removed and a bank was added.
“And again, even more aisles, checkouts and more products,” said Thomas, who has taken two Caribbean cruises.
Thomas said she worked nights for many years at the third store so that she could be at her children’s — daughters, Stacey, 32, and Katelyn, 30 — athletic events, and went back on days as soon as her oldest got her license.
The Kroger Marketplace that opened its doors on Jan. 28 is on another level, Thomas said.
With a little more of everything, Thomas said the newly built location is a quite shopping experience.
Thomas said people coming to the new store said they are spending more money, thinking the prices of groceries have gone up. However, Thomas said with all the new items available at the new store, people are just seeing items they haven’t come across before and adding them to their cart.
Thomas said the sushi bar inside the store also has been a hit. She said one customer told said that her teenager and their friends have been going to the sushi bar on the weekends to hang out, which she found funny.
The growler and wine area, along with the pizza and sandwich areas, also have been popular, she said.
The newest store also boasts a Boar’s Head meat and cheese shop and gourmet cheeses from New York. “Some of the managers even went to New York to see where the cheese is made,” Thomas said.
The store also features a bank, jewelry store and clothing area, which also has been popular. “They’ve done really well clearing out the winter clothes,” she said.
The use of debit and credit cards has created a learning curve along her career path, Thomas said. She said the number of gift cards the store sells also has increased, which has been a big change of the past few years.
But back to basics, Thomas said she just loves being a cashier, and loves the interaction with the customers. She said she has seen children grow up that now bring their children into the grocery store.
“I’ve always loved being a cashier. I’ve got my regulars that look for me every week,” Thomas said. “They hunt me down.”
She also has her Kroger family, which is an extension of her own family. She continues to work with several others who also have been at all four of the stores.
Despite the growth of the store, “We’re still like family,” Thomas said.
Reach Melody Vallieu at [email protected] or (937) 552-3121