GREENVILLE — Eikenberry’s IGA, has come a long way.
A couple of employees can verify that fact: Ed Swisher and Mike Null. They have been on staff since 1970.
Swisher started Sept. 3, 1970 at 4 p.m.
“It was a Thursday afternoon, “ he said.
His first tasks were carry-out, stocking shelves and cleaning up the meat department. That is how he learned to cut the meat.
“Years ago, a fellow I used to work with showed me how to do it,” he said. “When I started cutting meat, we got to hanging sides of beef – the fore quarters and the hind quarters. Now it all comes in boxes and is broken down into pieces. It is mostly all boneless anymore.”
According to one of the store’s owners Mark Davis, it’s going to be interesting what happens with meat in the next couple of years. Meat-cutters are going away and it is coming in pre-packaged. Mark said it is important to offer that service to his shoppers.
“It is an advantage for us to have knowledgable guys to cut our meat on the premises,” he said. “Shoppers often have questions on which meat to buy for a roast, or even how to cook a roast – these guys can tell you.”
Another Eikenberry’s employee, Mike Null, started at the store Nov. 7, 1970 as a pop-bottle sorter.
“I like the work – it’s very simple,” he said. “I enjoy being out in the public. If you enjoy what you do, it brings less stress in your life. I am not saying this is stress free – it has been interesting.”
Since 1929, when Myron Eikenberry opened the store, who is the grandfather of Gretchen, Davis’s wife, many have made their living at Eikenberry’s stores. Gretchen was bagging oranges when she was 6, Davis said. Now, they employ about 65 people.
In addition to some store veterans, many youngsters work at the store, such as Greenville High School Junior Paige Burns. She said she likes the flexible schedule Davis offers. For example, in the fall she has soccer and is able to work two days a week. Now, she is working five days. Davis requires the employees to be cordial to the shoppers, such as asking them if they want their groceries carried out to their vehicles. Many of them say, “yes”, Burns said.
“I like getting to talk to people when I take their groceries out and I like organizing things,” she said.
“They are busy,” Davis said of the students. “If they can work a couple days a week and put some money in their pockets, that’s good and good for us too, because we want good kids. It’s not a disadvantage if they can only work one or two days a week, that’s fine. And we feel an obligation there as well, that we can train some kids on learning how to work. Many of the kids we hire have have never run a sweeper or dusted anything. It’s incumbent upon us to teach these kids what it’s like to work a little bit, too.”
Burns said a couple of her friends also work at the store. According to Davis, many friendships are made at Eikenberry’s that last long after they quit working there.
“I don’t know how many Eikenberry marriages we’ve had – a lot – it is unbelievable,” he said. “I think the other nice dynamic is that we have kids from other schools who would never meet each other otherwise. Working here exposes them to different kids that aren’t in their peer group. I think that’s kind of cool.”
While many modern changes can push the industry into getting less for more, Davis holds onto the store’s long-time reputation of offering quality products to the shoppers. In this time, it is very hard to be a small business owner and compete with the big chains, he said. It costs a lot to keep the doors open. His buying decisions come from remaining nimble enough to notice shopping trends, but he also gives credit to his shoppers for providing valuable feedback, he said.
“We are selling more of what our customers want, and hopefully capitalizing on that,” Davis said. “We have other resources we lean on too, such as our wholesalers Spartan Nash and we are affiliated with IGA. Our produce companies help us out. Everybody is in it together.”
For Davis, every day is different.
“That is what I like,” he said. “I never know what we are going to get into day to day. We are part of the community and the fabric of the community. A lot of the stuff we do goes completely unnoticed and that is fine. We aren’t calling the papers to get our picture in every time we make a donation – every single day. We feel that is part of our responsibility to our community. We live here, our employees live here. It’s a big source of pride to keep 65 people employed in the town.”
Eikenberry’s is located at 1120 Sweitzer Street, in Greenville. For more information, visit http://saveatiga.com/store-location/store-detail?store_name=eikenberrys-iga