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Grocer#039;s ann}\u00D6sary sparks memory

Earlier this week, I was reminded that this week marked the 30th anniversary of the Greenville Super Foods. Through the years, it has definitely changed to match the times, with the exception of one thing, customer service.

I do not think I have ever walked into that store that Phillip Graham did not say hello and call me by name. Of course, if you spend any time around the store, you notice that he knows many of his customers by their name. I have always thought of Super Foods as that little corner grocery store, where you run in and pick up what you need and head back out.

This was something else I missed about Greenville while living in Georgia. There, I rarely walked into a grocery store. I simply placed an order on the computer and some nameless teenager would load the bags in my trunk at the appointed time. You realize you miss the familiarity of shopping at a store like Super Foods.

Thirty years in business. That's an accomplishment this day and age. I cannot recall just how many birthdays I've celebrated, or one of my siblings celebrated, that our birthday cakes didn't come from the bakery. Just recently I had a piece of cake at a party and I immediately recognized it as a Super Foods cake.

A few years ago, I wrote about how the store was undergoing a major renovation. I wasn't around when it was finished but now that I'm here again, I'm amazed at how neat and clean the store looks.

That's another pet peeve of mine. I have always disliked going into a store that just seems dirty and that has never been the case in Phillip Graham's store. If there's a mess, it is cleaned up immediately.

Another since of continuity that I've always liked is the cashiers and baggers. Most are teenagers. When you begin to think about the number of teens that Graham has hired over the years, it is mind-boggling. Some simply wanted spending money; others needed a job to help out at home. All were equal in his eyes and I've always noted a genuine concern for those employees. Of course, through the years, you've heard complaints, but I doubt everyone who has ever had me as a supervisor would give me a glowing recommendation.

Years ago, when I was around 10 or 11 years old, I remember visiting my grandmother and going shopping at Super Foods with her. It's hard to believe that in 1980, people would still only make one visit to Greenville a month. Maybe two if there was a special occasion. Since she didn't drive, my elderly great aunt and her husband would drive us and I laugh now how I thought it was such a long drive from Midway to Greenville. Of course, my uncle usually drove 25 miles per hour so I guess it was a long drive.

Our first stop would be David Lee's downtown, and then drive over to the &#8220new” bypass where we would go to Howard's and our last stop was always Super Foods. We would go down each aisle and Granny would check off her list that she had pinned to the Super Foods circular. If I behaved, our last stop would be the deli where we'd buy chicken legs and potato logs. Nothing ever smelled as good as that chicken as we took the long, slow drive back to Midway. We'd get home and put the groceries away and then we'd have our chicken and potatoes.

Now, I can walk into the same store as an adult, pass the deli and remember a wonderful morning with Granny. A sense of childhood tranquility always passes over me. Also, I never go in there that I don't run into someone I haven't seen in a while and I've had more old home week reunions in different aisles. Of course, that's what you expect in a hometown grocery store.

I know this is personal but I felt this was one of those anniversaries that needed to be noted. We have lost so much of what once was known as Main Street America, but it's nice to see Super Foods still going strong.

Congratulations Phillip Graham, employees present and past and the Wilson family on your 30th anniversary. Here's hoping there are many, many happy returns of the day.

Jay Thomas is Group Managing Editor for Greenville Newspapers. He can be reached via email at jay.thomas@greenvilleadvocate.com or by call 334.382.3111, ext 136. Read his previous columns at www.greenvilleadvocatae.com.