“Oh! I’ve got something for Linda,” says Mary Nichols as she scurries off to the back room where Linda Ritchi is working on orders and bookkeeping. Almost as soon as the door shuts, there’s a cackle and muffled laughter. Mary and Linda emerge, chuckling. At the register, Liz Wade shoots a knowing glance at Mary, her sister. Before heading outside toward the waiting forklift holding steel fence rails, Marilyn Huffman winks.
The employees at Kenny’s Value Center have been working with one another for nearly 30 years. They know how to get the better of each other in the long hours of their shifts.
Mary, Linda, Liz and Marilyn are the backbone of this long-standing storefront, sharing nearly all the wide variety of responsibilities. They squeeze past each other in the packed aisles, cracking smiles and patting one another’s shoulders. A bumped elbow turns into a gentle ribbing and feigned outrage at the crowding.
As the four mainstays care for customers, store owner Kenny Williams arms himself for a long day ahead with a sandwich, water, and a soda and makes his way out the door. He’s working to keep his store stocked with the essentials (and lots of odds and ends) for the large community it serves. What was established in 1976 as one-brick grocery store has grown into a multi-building business selling everything from cookies and cake mix to wrenches, feed and fence posts.
In the back aisle, a weathered customer sorts through loaves of bread and calls out to Linda by name to ask if there’s any sales this week. “Probably tomorrow, darlin’,” she calls back, without needing to look up from the register she’s tapping numbers into. The door opens and another customer pokes his head in, saying “Ten on one?” and gesturing to the gas pumps outside. Liz looks over her glasses to acknowledge the request and makes for the other register. The women make easy conversation among themselves and with customers. “We’re like family,” Linda smiles.