Mayor Brian Treece went to EatWell on Monday to present the natural grocery store’s employees with a proclamation thanking them for being available and open to the public since the start of the pandemic.

“In times of crisis like this, ... we recognize things that we have otherwise taken for granted,” Treece said on the food industry's inaugural Supermarket Employee Day. “I think it is important, as we begin to pull out of this pandemic, to say, ‘Thank you.’”

Center Store Lead Dakota Reeves, an employee who has been through the transition of the store’s change from Lucky’s to EatWell, was appreciative of the mayor coming in to say thank you to all of the employees and recognizing them for the work they have been doing during the pandemic.

“It’s usually the appreciation from the customers that really matters,” Reeves said, “because those are the people that we are interacting with every day.”

Schnucks, which owns EatWell, has been part of Aaron Neugarten’s life for 32 years. He has seen the store evolve since he began as a cashier in 1989.

“Schnucks, in general, is determined to help the community,” Neugarten said.

When the pandemic first began, stores were overwhelmed with customers stocking up to stay indoors. Neugarten had firsthand experience working through this anxious time for everyone.

“It was like Christmas every day,” Neugarten said. “It was very tiring.”

Even when he was working six days a week at a full-time job as an accountant, he still made time to work at Schnucks a couple of days a week while raising a family. He has since left his accounting job and has been working full time for the Schnucks company since 2007.

“I’ve always enjoyed the environment and the people in general,” Neugarten said.

He has shared his love for his job with his family. At one point, they were all working at the same location.

“It’s weird seeing all four of us in there at one time working,” Neugarten said.

Carrie Swarthout has worked in multiple departments throughout her 11 years with Schnucks and is currently a florist at EatWell. She has had to create bouquets by salvaging what she can from flowers sent to her in buckets. Usually, she has to use templated designs to create arrangements, but occasionally she can create her own.

“Give me an idea, and I’ll go with it, but it’s hard to recreate something that you are creating out of what you are grabbing out of a bucket,” Swarthout said. “It’s more of a whimsical thing.”

She said last year’s Mother’s Day was one of the busiest she has ever experienced.

The employees at EatWell and grocery stores across the nation have been essential workers during the pandemic who do not have the option of working from home. Recognizing their efforts with a thank you to continue to be part of the front line is what they appreciate most from their customers, employees said.

“I hope the trend of kindness continues,” Treece said. “I hope it makes us a little kinder and a little more appreciative of those that helped us get through.”

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  • General Assignment Reporter, Spring 2021 Studying convergence multimedia producing Reach me at agb6w@umsystem.edu, or at 882-5700

  • Assistant city editor, spring 2021. Studying print and digital news journalism. Reach me at skylarlaird@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

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