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Ringing up a career: Super One cashier retires after 41 years

It started with a car. In 1974 Jill Christie couldn't afford one with the money she made from her job at the Winslow's Hallmark store in Duluth. To add to her income, the then-24-year-old picked up a second job as a cashier at the National grocer...

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Jill Christie of Duluth has worked as a cashier at the Plaza Super One store for 41 years. She wraps up her career today. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

It started with a car.

In 1974 Jill Christie couldn't afford one with the money she made from her job at the Winslow's Hallmark store in Duluth. To add to her income, the then-24-year-old picked up a second job as a cashier at the National grocery store in the Plaza Shopping Center.

Four decades later, Christie will wrap up her career at the grocery store - now Super One Foods - on Friday. While she no longer owns the white 1968 Plymouth Barracuda she bought for $1,000 after working at the store for a year, Christie is taking a lifetime of memories with her.

"I've pretty much had all my milestones of my life there," Christie said this week. "I got engaged and got married and got divorced. I had my daughter, I had grandchildren, I've had everything in this same job."

Christie grew up in Barnum and moved to Duluth with her twin sister Jane in 1968 to go to school. After three years of working at both National and the Hallmark store, she quit Hallmark and went to work at the grocery store full-time.

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"It was such a good job and it had insurance and a pension that I decided to stay," Christie said. "Forty-one years later, there I am."

Christie considers herself lucky. She finished paying for her house 17 years ago and put her daughter, now 32, through college. Though she has worked a few part-time jobs over the years, Christie said her time at the grocery store has been more than a job.

"Lot of kids come and go. ... I've worked with hundreds of people, but I consider this my career and I loved it," she said. "This is what I did and this is what I thought I was good at."

Rolling with changes

Christie has stuck around at the grocery store through buyouts, remodels and expansions. In 1983 National was bought out by another company and became Plaza IGA. Later the name was changed to Jubilee, though it was under the same ownership. In 2006 the store was bought out again and became Super One Foods.

The changes didn't faze Christie; she just kept working at the checkout.

"There were a lot of changes, but it was always to the better," she said. "It was always good every time we did get bought out; it was to the better each time."

The Plaza Shopping Center also has gone through many changes since 1974. It now includes Super One, a Jimmy John's sandwich shop and Great Harvest Bread Company, with a CVS pharmacy across the street, but over the years it also housed a J.C. Penney store and a five-and-dime.

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"When I first started working there in '74 it was just a whole different atmosphere out there in the Plaza," Christie said. "Across the street - well of course now it's the drug store, but you should see all the fun stores that used to be there."

The Plaza Super One is set to be remodeled again over the next five months. The store will be expanded, and include a larger deli and sit-down eating area. This time, however, Christie will not be working through the changes.

"I'm going to miss having a nice, newer store," she said.

The store isn't the only thing Christie has seen grow and change. As she's gotten to know her regular customers over the years, Christie has received regular updates about their lives, families and children.

Even though the widespread use of credit cards has sped up the checkout process, Christie still makes an effort to get to know her customers.

"I see a lot of the same people over and over," she said. "I have seen third generations of family come through. I've seen the parents, then their children, and now I see their children."

"She's my favorite"

On Wednesday morning during her last week of work, Christie checked out, bagged and loaded groceries while saying goodbye to her best customers.

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"I'm already getting cards," Christie said, holding up a white envelope she had stashed in her work station.

Dorothea Diver was in the checkout line Wednesday. She said Christie has been her "go-to gal" for 20 years. While Christie will be missed, Diver said she's glad she'll be getting off her feet and spending more time with her family.

"(It's) about time," Diver said. "She's a gal who likes to hop around town. I see her around town with her sister, having a fun time. This will give her more time."

Jean Nelson, another customer, has known Christie for 10 years. She said she'll miss Christie's bagging expertise and positive attitude.

"I like her a lot; she's my favorite checkout (person)," Nelson said. "She's an excellent wrapper, she knows what to put together."

Store manager Todd Nelson said Christie has been an important part of the staff at the Plaza Super One.

"Customers come to the store to shop on the days she's working so that they can see her," he said. "It's going to be a big loss when she leaves here."

Even though she'll miss the customers she's gotten to know over the years, Christie said she looks forward to spending time at her cabin with her sister, working in her garden, and resting. She said a lack of things to do isn't a concern.

"As my daughter would call it, 'Mom's always got a project,'" she said. "I'm not going to be bored."

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