BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With his ever-present smile and friendly demeanor, it’s no wonder that Waterville Kroger customers often ask for Steve Franklin to bag their groceries.
“Everyone knows Steve, and they ask for him,” said Lynde Selders, who as front-end department manager works with Steve and other courtesy clerks. “He always asks people about how their weekend or holiday was, and he’ll ask kids how they’re doing in school.”
On Monday, January 23, Steve is turning 62 – and turning in his blue apron – as he retires from Waterville Kroger after 17 years.
“I’ve never worked anywhere else this long,” Steve said.
Steve worked with a job coach to find jobs in the community, including summers at Camp Courageous, but he was looking for a position where he could work year-round, he said.
When he started with Kroger on January 1, 2006, the store was located in the Waterville Plaza on Michigan Avenue. Steve remembers the aisles were smaller and people would have to look out for the support poles in some of the aisles, making maneuvering a cart a challenge. In October 2010, Kroger was the first tenant in Waterville Landing and in 2017, the store expanded to a whopping to 124,795 square feet.
As Waterville grew into a city, the number of Kroger customers has grown as well, and Steve has grown his fan base over the years, Lynde said. At the bottom of each receipt is a message for customers to go online and make comments. Steve is often praised by customers for his friendliness.
“It’s one of the reasons that people come back to Kroger,” she said.
Steve said the friendliness of the staff has kept him happy at work.
“I enjoy the people. Even the ones who used to work here. They come back and visit,” he said.
Over the years, he’s gone with fellow employees to see the Mud Hens and Walleye, and to volunteer at Cherry Street Mission. He also fondly remembers walking in the Roche de Boeuf Parade alongside the old Kroger vehicle, passing out candy to the crowds.
Like all courtesy clerks, Steve underwent training on how to properly bag merchandise, but now he helps the new hires. He explains the basics of bagging: “Veggies go together. Eggs on top. Bread on top. Do not put foods with non-foods.”
During busy periods, courtesy clerks are supposed to “bounce” between checkout lanes, but if someone asks for Steve by name, he’s permitted to go help that customer. Some, however, prefer to bag their own groceries. That’s likely to be Steve when he comes back to Kroger to do grocery shopping with his parents.
In retirement, Steve will continue living at Browning Masonic Community with his parents and he’ll enjoy spending time with family and friends. He also loves watching movies and following his favorite sports teams, which include the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Lions, The Ohio State University and University of Toledo football teams and, of course, the Walleye and Mud Hens.