BC “icon” retires after 42 years
Joey Hargrave, Annie Hargrave, Becky Romero and Cliff Hargrave are planning a retirement party. The party is to honor Annie for 42 years of working at Market Basket in Bridge City. The celebration party for family and friends is from 2 pm. to 4 p.m. January 29th at Fellowship Baptist Church located at 1965 Miller Drive in Bridge City.
By Debby Schamber
For the Record
In 1974, when Annie Hargrave began working at Hughes grocery store in Bridge City, the average cost of a loaf of bread was 28 cents, while a gallon of milk was $1.39.
A lot has changed in 42 years, but one thing has remained constant. The smile and warm greeting customers received from Annie stayed the same and her laughter remains in the hearts of many who had the pleasure of meeting her.
It was not uncommon for customers to search for her when they ready to check out with their groceries. When she completed ringing them up, she cheerfully thanked them and sincerely told them to have a nice day.
Customers over the years formed a bond with this special lady. During the holidays they brought her gifts such as Christmas ornaments and baked goods. They didn’t miss the opportunity to celebrate her birthday either.
“I tried to do customers the way I would want my mother to be treated,” Annie said. “I love my customers.”
Those who knew Annie personally, describe her as a “straight shooter” and a “free spirit.” She also is said to have “a heart of gold.”
If put into the position, Annie would certainly be the person you would want to be in your corner, according to Mike Hart, former co-worker and good friend of Annie.
“You always knew where you stood with Annie,” Hart said. “But, she is an amazing person and I love her to death.”
Her current store manger at Market Basket, Randy Becker, has kind words of her too.
“Behind that rough voice is the heart of a warm soul. Annie would and has paid for a stranger’s groceries and given out hugs where she thought they were needed. She will do anything for her family and friends. She loves everyone and they love her back,” Randy Becker said.
To Annie he says, ” Annie, we love you and will miss your presence at Market Basket. It is time to share you with Joe.”
Annie, who is originally from Port Arthur, moved to Bridge City in 1960. Along with her husband, Joe, they raised three children, Becky, Joey and Cliff. In 1974, a friend of Annie’s called her about a local grocery store to tell her they were hiring. Annie decided to submit an application and a short time later she was hired.
The name, owners and location of the store is one of the many things which have changed over the years. The original location of the store is in the same shopping center, but it was at the opposite end.
The owners and name change began in 1962 when Johnnie Alford, Ed Hughes, Howard Hatfield, Roy Theriot and Bruce Thompson joined together to form Market Basket. At the time each independent grocer owned one store each. The five grocers joined forces in order to keep advertising costs low and pool their purchasing power. Three of the grocers remained single supermarket operators while Hughes and Thompson formed a 50-50 corporation of joint expansion.
As partners, in the 1960s Thompson and Hughes bought four stores. During the 1970s they continued to grow with more purchases. In 1983, Thompson purchased Hughes interest in their jointly held corporation. Hughes held onto two remaining stores until the late 1990s when he sold them to Thompson. During the next decade, customers saw an extensive remodeling plan and expansion throughout the chain. Today, Market Basket remains a privately-owned grocer serving the East Texas and Louisiana region with 34 full-service supermarkets and employs more than 2,000 people.
Over the years, technology has evolved along with the her job as a cashier. As a checker, she began with a cash register with big clumsy buttons. She also had to make notes of what was on sale so she knew what to charge customers. In later years computers were what checkers used and a quick scan helped make checking easier. But, she didn’t use a scanner until they moved to the new store.
During her years at the store, she wasn’t always a checker. She also worked as a booth operator. Eventually, she went back to not only being a checker but was promoted to head checker. Her duties not only consisted of checking groceries, but stocked items such as magazines, tobacco and candy. She also stocked the drug isle.
Annie can laugh about it now as she recalls an instance where her feet were up in the air after falling into a box. She tells the story of taking a break at the store. She sat down on a box not knowing it was empty. As a result, she fell into the box leaving only her feet up in the air. The only way for her to get out was with the assistance of others.
Annie developed friendships while working at the store. Her “best friends” are Arlene Toups, Dot Cormier and Doris Harris. Three other special bonds to not be broken are with Mark Watts, Mike Hart and Paula Regier. Together or apart, the memories they shared are forever special to Annie.
“To the rest, there are too many to name, I love them all dearly,” Annie said.
Annie remained in the store location with the exception of Hurricane Ike in 2008. The store was damaged and a trailer was put in the parking lot so customers could get the essentials as Bridge City worked to rebuild. She was one of the first checkers to work in the small trailer.
The Hargrave children have special memories of their own when it comes to their mother’s employment.
“To this day, everytime I go into the store, everybody asks me how my momma is doing,” Joey said.
During Annie’s history at the store, she has witnessed children grow into adults and have children of their own. In some instances those children have children too.
The Hargrave children did what many children have done and that is find a way to make money for activities. During the days of glass cola bottles, they collected the bottles and turned them in for cash. It wasn’t much, but could provide enough change for them to go bowling or other fun things to do.
There was a down side to having the mother everyone in town knew. According to Joey Hargrave, there was no way to get away with anything at school. When he walked through the doorway, she would be waiting to ask him if he had anything to tell her. As a result, he would confess.
“She always knew what happened good or bad at school,” Joey said.
Cliff Hargrave was 8 years old when his mother began working at the grocery store. When he got home from school, he had to stay in the house until his older sister Becky arrived too. He remembers the cans of sauce,cheese and along with other groceries she brought home so he could make his own pizzas. For the youngest of the three children, this source of independence was important.
Now she is retired, Annie intends to spend more time with her husband and loving her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The Hargrave children have planned a retirement celebration party for family and friends from 2 pm. to 4 p.m. January 29th at Fellowship Baptist Church located at 1965 Miller Drive in Bridge City.