Why The Grocery Industry is Important to Me!

As some of you might know, I recently made the decision to return to working inside grocery stores. This was a decision I knew that would eventually happen, I just didn’t know the when. To have a better understanding of the why, let me tell you a bit about my past.

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When I was 5 years old, I lived in a townhouse with my mom and dad. My dad was unemployed at the time and was looking for jobs. At the time, a local grocery store was being built in the community: Cub Foods Eagan West. My dad applied for the store, and this was the start of the grocery industry for my family.

When I was 15, my dad and I were having our weekly father/daughter outing since my parents were divorced. He looks at me and asks, “Are you ready for a job?” I said, “yes.” Next thing I know is my dad’s on the phone calling the local store manager at the Cub Foods right down the road from my house. Next thing I know we are heading to the store so he can introduce me to her: Margie Judd. After the introduction, I was hired on the spot, and this is how my start in the grocery business began.

Margie Judd: I’ll never forget her. She has become quite a powerful force in the grocery industry herself, and was part of KEY moments in my own career (especially when I got to partake in opening a brand new store in Eagan as a Dairy/Frozen Manager).

Cub was there for me for 13 years! I worked in various departments from Clean Team, Dairy, Frozen, Produce, Customer Service, Floral, Bakery, and managing the store. It was there for me every summer while I went to college and from becoming a Dairy/Frozen Manager to a Grocery Manager to Opening a new store!

Every summer during college I’d come home and work at cub for the summer to make money for the year ahead. This is where I first met Bob Iacono- the newest store manager at the Eagan West store. Him and I developed a pretty great repoire. I was one of the few employees that actually picked on him back. Bob would be key to helping develop my career in the years ahead when he stepped into his District Manager role.

It was after I graduated college in Social Work that I realized I didn’t want to pursue a career in Social Work, and that’s when I officially put in my letter for full time at Cub. John Lee: another phenomonal Store Manager who I learned a lot from gave me an opportunity in management by running the Summer Greenhouse! After a successful run, he placed me as a 2nd Asst Grocery Manager. He was also the one that eventually came up to me and said, “If you are serious about moving up, we need to get you experience in another department: that’s when I become an Asst Produce Manager in a department I never worked in before.

I remember the day clearly during my 1st Transfer: John Lee comes up to me in Produce and says, “I need to talk to you upstairs.” That’s when he tells me I was being transferred to the Chanhassen store as the Asst Produce Manager. John was pissed because truck drivers were already talking about my transfer before I was even notified. This transfer was my first big challenge of my career: turning the produce department around at that store. After a few months of feeling like I did that, a posting for a Dairy/Frozen Manager position became available. I applied.

This is something I can honestly say : I wasn’t afraid of putting myself out there. I went through the interview process, and was offered the role. To this day I can honestly say the dairy/frozen departments are some of my favorite departments in a grocery store! While I was a Dairy/Frozen Manager I learned a lot about management and managing people. I will always cherish those memories. It also gave me one of my proudest and most challenging moment of my career: Opening a Brand New Store.

Opening up a new Grocery store is a lot of work! You build your team from stores throughout the District, and they all come together under the new store. We were there when the deli equipment arrived. We were there when the shelving got placed. When the freezer cases got added. We were the ones who wrote the 1st orders, who placed the 1st tags. And we were the store that was to have their Grand Opening 2 Weeks before the Thanksgiving Holiday! We needed our team ready along with our store needing to be dialed.

I still remember to this day Bob coming up to me a week after the Grand opening and telling me, “Thank You – this was one of the best Grand Openings I’d seen in Dairy/Frozen Department with maintaining in stock conditions! I also remember at the time Dairy/Frozen was shooting for a 25% Sales Mix. I came in consistently at 25-26% with this store. Exactly why when I applied for the Grocery Manager role, I got it!

That was my story with Cub Foods. Some of you are probably wondering why I left? Needless to say, in my mid twenties, I was married, but my marriage was going through a rough patch. We eventually made the decision to go through a divorce. Personal life can get in the way of job performance – and my emotional state wasn’t at its best so I made the decision to step down. I eventually met David which then made my final decision of leaving Cub because I was moving to California.

I’m forever grateful for the experiences that Cub gave me and the people that forever had an impact on my career. I’ll never forget them.

But then my career in California began:

When I first moved to California, I got a job with Ty Inc selling Beanie Babies to grocery stores and CVS Stores! It was a great way to get me acquainted with Grocery Stores and learning Los Angeles.

When we moved to Northern California, I started with Mondelez International, but I needed full time so I went to Kellogg’s. Kellogg’s was a great career for 7 and 1/2 years. I had fun selling in displays and building them and challenging myself to learn and expand the business. However I reached a point where I was no longer learning, and it was hard to get to the next level in a National company.

One of the major accounts I called on took a pretty big hit with COVID this past year. I knew they needed help. I knew the experience I had in my pocket. I knew it was my time to reenter stores. And this time I had a different perspective. I had a better understanding of the business, in general. This time, it’s about me becoming the mentor for others exactly as I had great mentors that helped develop me!

And this is why I know I’m in the right place.

I also am rejoining the industry as my father of 35 Years is about to retire from it! He’s the biggest industry mentor I have. I work in the industry for myself but I forever push hard for him!

And one last reason: The past year and a half with COVID, I have never seen the why showcased in such a positive way for the Grocery Industry. I’ve never been more proud to be a part of it. We are part of the food supply, and an important source for feeding so many.

Those are the reasons why I made the Decision to Return. My story wasn’t finished.

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Growing Up: Grief and Life

I am at that age where those we looked up to as children, those who have helped care for us are starting to pass away.

This past year, I have experienced 6 deaths within my extended family. Some of those were incredibly close and I have seen, more than ever, the importance of family. The hardest one was what kicked everything off when my other halfs step-dad passed away. His mom had been with him for over 30 years and we had to help pick up the pieces after. We just recently passed the 1 year mark on July 27th.

This past weekend a Memorial Trap Club Shoot took place in his honor. It was a beautiful thing to see the entire family come together to shoot in his honor. His first love was our beloved Lorna and his family. His 2nd love was trap shooting and the club where it all took place!

Thankfully, none of the deaths have been related to Covid-19.

One thing I’ve learned in the past year is how grief is an extremely personal process. There are highs. There are lows, and everyone experiences things differently.

My other half also lost one of his dear aunts to Parkinsons Disease this past year.

And then things began to hit my side of the family: one of my Uncles passed away. He was only 57. It was the first sibling of my moms to pass, and unfortunately, he was far too young.

The one good thing that comes from death is that it definitely brings people together. It was my first trip out to Ohio in over 18 years – a trip that was long overdue!

The one that hit the hardest was when my father reached out to me to tell me about my Dear Aunt Kathy. This was the one that was unexpected. That night I cried my eyes out. The guilt of not seeing her in years completely washed over me and that night, all I could think about were the memories I had of her.

She was an aunt I was incredibly close to, as a child, but as an adult, I drifted apart from. But I knew I had to get home for her service.

At her service it was great seeing my cousins after years apart, but in that moment, I knew their lives changed due to their Mother, my Aunt, being their rock.

And then my step-dad recently lost his mother to Breast Cancer – his mom was very much like a grandmother to me. But more than anything – it was about his Dad and helping him navigate the days after.

In moments like these, in this past year, I’ve realized, it’s not about you, but giving those closest to the loved one the strength to get through the days ahead. It is not the moment to be selfish, judge others or make assumptions, but to help lift one another up.

Tell stories, make each other laugh or provide a meal. Help clean up around the house, fix something that may be broken, but more than anything, show compassion.

In those moments it’ll be the kind gestures that will help move them forward, but in the end, let them grieve. Let them cry. Let them get mad. Let them shout. But do not judge.

I guess I really just needed to write all this out. In my dad to day job I’m often providing service to others, but the older I get I’m finding less and less people are checking in, asking how I am.

In the hard times of life is when I grow silent, but may be holding the most pain and grief inside. It’s still hard to talk about. How does someone even begin to explain going thru 6 deaths in a year – losing some very key people to family dynamics? I don’t have an answer to that. I’ve grown pretty numb at this point.

But one thing I know is the kindness others have shown or laughs they’ve provided me along the way. Thats what’s helping me get thru.

Categories: Travel | 1 Comment

WoodenShoe Tulip Farm – Woodburn, Oregon

It was a little over 3 Years ago when i discovered WoodenShoe Tulip Farm in Oregon. I relentlessly followed them on Instagram (@woodenshoefarm). I discovered them after I visited a small Tulip field at a nearby winery in my community!

My love of Tulips was growing more and more. When I discovered Woodenshoe, I was enarmored by the beauty of the flowers, the colors, and as a fan of photography, the idea of creating beautiful photos.

The Tulip Farm season is just 1 short Month, so you have to plan a trip around it. I had every intention of making the trip in 2020, however, COVID, so this year, in 2021, as things were beginning to open up. I had become fully vaccinated, I was ready to get out of California for a bit, and needed a road trip.

That’s when I remembered Woodenshoe Tulip Farm, and had to make my plans: We booked a few nights at the Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton, Oregon, which was just about 15-20 minutes away from the Woodenshoe Tulip Farm. This year, because of COVID, we had to pre-purchase our tickets ($15 a piece for the day, select our designated time and day) and then made our trip happen.

I’m so glad I did: These were just some of the photos taken:

This was my favorite photo of the day. We got to the Tulip Farm around 11am on a Thursday morning. The clouds were right above, and the blue skies were just around the corner. This image caught the beauty of the flowers, the blue sky along with the clouds.

It was my goal to capture a Tulip with Raindrops on it. I think I fared pretty well here!

Capturing David in the element! Tractor Trailer, Red Tulips, and the fields surrounding him!

WoodenShoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Oregon

This was just a small sample of the some of the GREAT photos captured that day, but I wanted to give you guys an idea of what you can create at a Tulip Field or Flower field, in general! It was such a great outing and something I’d do again, in a heartbeat!

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