FARMINGTON — When Janice Atwood and Peter Zanoni first walked in to the original local Walmart, it was a newly built, empty space waiting for new employees to put up shelves and stock them.
That was 20-years ago, prior to the opening date of March 2, 1993.
It was smaller then, Atwood said. It has since become a super center, opened in October 2002 where about 220 full and part-time workers are employed.
This month 14 original employees were honored for 20-years of continuous work there. Three more employees join them later this year, one in June, two more in October, a total of 17 marking 20-years of employment, said Donna Smith, human resource manager.
A recent celebration honored the employees whose hire date was Jan. 9, 1993.
“We’re gold now,” said Zanoni, the first associate who cut the ribbon opening the store.
Some reach that number of years working for Walmart but at different places like Store Manager Greg Patterson, who was honored for reaching a milestone of 25-years.
“What makes this unique is these 17 have been right here. They were there on the first day,” Smith said.
Actually before that, they were there stocking shelves long before the doors opened, Atwood said.
Showered with gifts including gold pins, badges, plaques, a permanent store discount and a monetary gift from the home office, a small celebration was held for the employees. Each was also listed in the company’s news magazine, “Walmart World.”
Employees there since January 1993 include Clare Liwski, Barbara Burnell, Darlene Nile, David Silva, Janice Atwood, Jason Baker, Robert Nile, Marilyn Barker, Theresa Pratt, Sean Leblanc, Peter Zanoni, Thomas Gosselin, Richard Pease and Richard Higgins. Reaching the milestone later this year are Tanya Jordan, Susan Densmore and Gail Churchill.
The celebration was a surprise, a time in which each shared where they started in the store and what they’ve done up till now, Patterson said. Three overnight employees in maintenance have remained there all 20-years, he added.
Atwood started as manager of the small garden center in the original store, Zanoni was assistant manager in the garden center. She’s now zone merchant supervisor for the sports, automotive and gardening departments.
“There’s great opportunities for employees to move up. It’s all up to you,” she said.
Many employees who started in this store have been promoted to better positions in other Walmart stores, she added.
Atwood also serves as the store’s representative on the board of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.
Zanoni has worked with community relations; helping with provision of grants to various area organizations. He also helps organize a large annual Veterans Day service held outside the store.
“We’ve put thousands of dollars into the community with many grants given from LEAP to Scouts and schools, to local fire and police departments,” he said.
Both agreed the teamwork among employees is outstanding.
“There’s a family atmosphere here. The store is a community within the community,” he said about the staff and his reasons for staying.
“Customers become friends with some coming in to say hello or walk around the store. They want to see a friendly face. Many appreciate the friendliness,” he said.
“It’s also a lot of fun,” Atwood said of the work environment, especially around the holidays. “We’re so busy. The years just go by.”