GREENVILLE — Al Briggs still remembers the tedious task of having to price tag every individual package of merchandise one sticker tag at a time, only to go back later and remove them after each sale.
Today, technology provides Briggs, the assistant manager at Kmart, and his staff of 52 with slick and easy-to-use bar code scanners, dramatically cutting the time it takes to reprice items.
There have been a few other changes at Kmart throughout the past 20 years. In 1992, the store had only two aisles of food, mostly canned or dry goods. Today, there are 10 aisles, including refrigerated goods.
Typical of a big business, there is always changes in staff each year. However, there are five employees still working at Kmart who have been there since its inception. Briggs, Sue Hudson of Greenville, Karen Gould of Turk Lake, Kim Frisbey of Stanton and Amy Meisch of Kent City have continued to serve the Greenville community at Kmart since the store opened Feb. 17, 1992.
“After 20 years, it still feels like a new store to me,” said Briggs, a Greenville High School alumnus who served 13 years at Kmart in Wyoming before transferring to Greenville. “I can’t believe it’s been 20 years.”
Like Briggs, Meisch, the store’s receiving manager, transferred from another Kmart store to Greenville, having served 10 years with the Muskegon branch previously.
She is the second of three family members who have been a part of the Kmart staff. Her daughter, Alison Morales, has worked with her for 11 years. Meisch’s mother worked at a Kmart in Grand Rapids when Meisch was a child.
Though Kmart may have seen many changes, from merchandise, technology and staff to rising competition with other “big box” stores, Meisch said there are a few things that have stayed true to tradition, which has kept Kmart competitive.
“Everybody here cares about the store, from its customers to how the store looks and how clean it is,” Meisch said. “This is a friendly town and we have many dedicated customers.”
Many of her coworkers echo her statements.
“Getting to work with the customers, our patients here at the pharmacy, and getting to know them is what I have enjoyed most,” said Frisbey, a Kmart pharmacy technician.
Store Manager Dave Bronkella, who has been with the Greenville Kmart store for four years, said customer service and the cleanliness of the building have been impeccable throughout its years in Greenville. Having five employees on staff that have been here through the beginning has been an added bonus for the store and its customers, he said.
“Many customers come here because of them,” Bronkella said of his staff. “The familiarity of the staff makes this place more inviting. It’s got a hometown feel and our regular customers like the experience here. Operating a big business like this but still having that small town atmosphere is valuable.”
Kmart first opened in Garden City in 1962. Greenville’s store welcomed customers during a soft opening Feb. 17, 1992, holding its official opening and celebration three days later. There are more than 1,300 Kmarts stores around the world today.
Briggs said the staff enjoyed a small anniversary celebration together with pizza and cake last month.