JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — If you've shopped at Olde Towne Cash Saver in downtown Jeffersonville within the past 25 years, you've met Margaret Embry.
A sweet and sassy woman with a Southern accent, Embry has been checking out customers for decades.
Until Aug. 31, she will be the oldest and longest standing employee at the store. On Sept. 1, 25 years to the day after her first shift, she will be officially retired.
NO INTERVIEW NEEDED
Embry had worked and lived in Jeffersonville for a number of years by the summer of 1992.
Born in Willow Shade, Ky., she moved with her family often as a child. Determined to keep her three children settled in one place, once she and husband of nearly 55 years, Lowell, purchased their Jeffersonville home, Embry says she told him "that's it, I won't move no more."
Embry was without work in the fall of 1992 after Bill's Drugs, where she had cashiered for seven years, closed about a year prior.
"Every time I went to the grocery store, Gary's dad, Pop, would say 'Margaret, when are you coming here to work here?' So one day, I asked for an application and filled it out. the next day I was ironing and (they) called and told me to come on down, they wanted to train me. I loved it," Embry explained.
As with most jobs, Embry worked some nights and weekend shifts in the beginning but for the most part worked Monday through Friday consistently and almost always on aisle one.
"I hate to admit this but when I started there, we had manual registers. Not long after we got computerized ones," Embry said with a laugh.
Every day, Embry walked to work and every Wednesday she got the same breakfast at Wall Street Cafe - crispy bacon, eggs and toast.
Over the years, the store has changed hands a few times since she was first hired on and even the name has changed.
"It's been a ride, we've had some interesting things happen over there," Embry said.
In one instance, a man came into the store with a large boa constrictor wrapped around his neck.
"I screamed and jumped over the counter. I didn't go around the counter, I went over the counter," she said.
She's run into customers from the store in places as far as Palm Springs, Calif., and Dover, England.
"When you know everybody, you're in trouble," she joked, "But ... I wouldn't change it for the world."
BONDS FROM BEHIND THE REGISTER
Embry says she's had more regulars than she can name, but there is one that sticks out as the most memorable.
"Ted ... he died in my lane. He always came in. Everyone in the town knows him," Embry said. "He came in one day, he always came in, and if I was busy he'd just touch me on the shoulder and say 'how are you doing?' or whatever and then he'd go to the back and talk to everybody. Then he came ( to my lane)... All of a sudden, I saw him slide. I grabbed him by the hand, I was trying to hold him up, he weighed near 250 pounds, and I couldn't. He was dead before he hit the floor."
"I knew Ted ever since the first day I started working there. He's an icon in the town. He would start on Spring Street and come all the way up, going into the shops. He really stuck out, he was something else."
Popping into the store on Saturday morning, Embry ran into a customer she's worked with for years. The two chatted for a moment and the conversation quickly turned to her upcoming retirement. In the parking lot after the exchange, Embry batted back tears and said her last day will end the same way.
"It's going to be bittersweet," she said, "I've been to funerals (with customers), I've laughed with them, I've cried with them, I've prayed with them. Some of my customers are just absolutely super."
HER FINAL CLOCK OUT
Sept. 5 will be the first Tuesday in two and a half decades Embry won't get up and walk to her grocery store.
"It's going to feel odd, very strange," she said.
Just talking about her last day of work Embry gets overwhelmed, but as she approaches 74 she knows this is the right time to retire.
"I want to spend time with my husband. My daughter, her husband and our granddaughter are moving to St. Augustine, Florida and we are going to start heading down that way," she said. "We like to travel, we like to go places. This is our opportune time. I want to get out of work while I'm still able."
Embry will continue to get her groceries at Olde Towne Cash Saver and keep in touch with the friends she's made. Some mornings she'll get her usual breakfast at Wall Street Cafe, though "not as often."
"I just ... like people," she said, with a smile and a shrug.
Source: News and Tribune
Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., http://www.newsandtribune.com