Barb Stewart celebrated 40 years of employment at the local grocery store last week.
Todd Shuman, manager of Sunshine Foods in Lennox ,celebrated the milestone with a cake and offered his appreciation for the long-time employee.
Stewart began her career in the grocery industry in 1981 at Virg’s IGA Foodshoppe. A Lennox High School graduate, Stewart and her husband Chuck, lived just a little over a block away from the local store. Then grocery store owner Virg Musch called her up and asked if she was interested in a job.
As a mother of three young kids attending Lennox schools, the job seemed to be a perfect fit. She began as a cashier and then worked in the produce department.
As the grocery store made changes, Stewart did too. In 1993, she said they got their first computer systems and she moved up to be the scanning coordinator, later to assistant manager.
Virg’s became Fiesta Foods, and later, Sunshine Foods. Along with Virg and Carole Musch, Stewart recalls working with Mike, Greg and also Jason, and of course now, Todd.
“One of the biggest changes was moving to the computer systems,” Stewart said, “Although it was harder at first because there was so much to learn, it made other things easier.”
Stewart has also noticed a change in eating habits. She said people have gotten healthier and have varied their cooking styles, which in turn means the grocery store is offering more healthy food choices and a variety of ingredients.
Perhaps, the biggest change came this past year though as the community, and entire world, dealt with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dealing with the pandemic shortages this past year was a definite challenge,” Stewart said, “But the biggest thing for us was to be here for our customers, with curbside pickup or whatever they needed. We tried to accommodate everyone, it was scary for everybody.”
That thoughtfulness of customers is what has kept Stewart going through the years.
“It’s the appreciation that people show,” said Stewart, “For your knowledge and help. When people notice and care — that makes a difference.”
She offers her appreciation for all of those who have helped and encouraged her throughout her four decade long career.
“I want to say a sincere thank you to the Musch family, Bosch family, Jason and Todd, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have had a local job for 40 years,” she said.
Local was the key word for Stewart when describing the reasons she has enjoyed her employment. Being close to the store when it was downtown, meant never having to drive, and even now with the grocery store at the new location, the short drive is a better option for her than traveling out of town in all kinds of weather. She especially appreciated the local position while her kids were in school, knowing that if anything happened she was just minutes away.
“Also, thank you to all the present and past employees, also all the customers over the years,” she said, “The relationships you build with people are the meaningful things.”
Stewart’s family includes her husband Chuck and her children Bob and DeeAnne of Scribner, NE and their two children; Heather and her three children of Battlecreek, NE; and Bill and Kate of Waddell, AZ and their two children.