If you walked into Walmart on Monday, Jan. 28, around 11 a.m., you were probably greeted by almost every employee in the store. Gathered near the produce section, several associates reminisced on years of memories shared in the building. A building which was not standing 20 years ago.
Sunday, Jan. 27, was the official 20-year anniversary for Tompkinsville Walmart, with the celebration and awards ceremony held on Monday, opening with a prayer by associate Adam King.
The building started back in 1999 as a new retail chain in town, drawing excitement from some and dread for others. Many residents felt that having a chain store in our little town would hurt the community in many ways. Others felt it would bring growth, jobs and development. Susan Turner, Monroe County Extension Agent, was one of those and she was the first to speak at the event on Monday.
She spoke fondly of the store and its employees, stating, “Walmart has made a true impact on T-ville. There has been economic development, more jobs are available, and our community has expanded, especially on this end of town. The reason for that, is all of you. You, the employees. I know before I get out of the car and walk in that there will always be someone to say hello, direct me to what I need or just help in any way. This store would not be this successful if it were not for all of you. I am thankful for all of you. Congrats!”
Turner then turned over the floor to Chamber of Commerce President Sharon Walker who also spoke highly of the store and it’s associates. She recalled the first day of business, saying, “I remember 20 years ago I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for the doors to open. I was so excited to not have to drive so far to go shopping. I can’t believe it has been that many years but we at the Chamber are so grateful for all this store has done to help our community. From the matching funds program to donating food for benefits, setting up car washes and other events… you always help.”
She continued, praising the smiling faces around her, “20 years. That is great. A lot of people don’t spend that long at one place of employment. Y’all are a family. Walmart here is not just a business, people come here to socialize. It has brought the community together and I am proud of all of you and your accomplishments.”
Sheriff Dale “Frog” Ford was also present for the festivities and echoed Walker, also expressing his appreciation for those gathered around. “I am proud of how you treat the customers. I come out here and everyone knows me. Y’all are a great bunch, always ready to help when I am out here looking lost while trying to find something,” he laughed and continued, “I would also like to speak for the Sheriff’s Department as well as the City Police. Y’all have been very gracious with us. I am especially proud of all you do for the “Shop with a Cop” program and have for 11 years now. I am proud to be a part of that.”
That pride resonated through the crowd as everyone shared stories of their first days working at the new retail in town and how quickly the time had passed. You could almost see the love they held for each other.
Perhaps none more than their beloved “Mrs. Ruth (Kirk),” an associate of 20 years, who modeled her colorful outfit to her friends; the same she wore on her first day of work in 1999.
Each employee with 20 years of service was presented a certificate, a plaque and a pin. Presenting the awards were Tompkinsville store manager, Tommy Vick and Glasgow store manager, Carla Thomas.
Thomas started her career in produce at the Tompkinsville Walmart and has since worked her way up to being a store manager at the Walmart in Glasgow. She spoke with a bit of emotion, stating, “Walmart changes lives. I know it changed mine and my families and I see more changes coming. I still live here, and I can say I know 100 associates personally and can always count on them.”
Another manager soon leaving the Tompkinsville store to become an assistant store manager at the Glasgow Walmart is David Threet, who spoke saying how much he would miss the Tompkinsville store and of the lessons learned that he will take with him.
Vick, ended the ceremony with a few thoughts of his own, saying, “We have saw many people come and go and we miss them but love seeing how they have moved up in their careers. This store has really come a long way in these 20 years and I am proud of it.”
He continued, pointing to the crowd, “This is the best store I have ever worked in and that is because of all of you. The associates are dedicated, the execution of their duties is always on point and the standards they live by sets a precedent. That along with the community, the donations mentioned by Walker, Ford and others… these things are taken for granted but they add up and we are proud of it.”
He finished as Regina Turner, associate of 20 years pulled him in for a hug, saying, “A lot of managers have come and gone but we love Tommy and we’re keeping him.”
The festivities ended with a cake which employees grabbed and ate on the run as they were ready to get back to work. The crowd dispersed as quickly and quietly as it had gathered. Only proving the words spoken of them earlier. 20 years of wonderful service continuing.