We’ve all seen the lists of best places to live, best places to call home, best places to raise a family. Hands down, the City of Mountain Brook usually tops those lists in our state and always ranks high nationally. But it could also be argued that it is the relationships here are what truly make it what it is. That to share a barber with your grandfather says something about tradition. That the priest who marries you might be the same one who baptized you. That pausing to greet neighbors is just what you do.

Possibly nowhere else here is this more evident than in our day-to-day interactions with the friendly faces at the Piggly Wiggly in Crestline or The Western Supermarket in Mountain Brook Village. Sam, Joe, Deborah, Dianne – these are our neighbors who have been diligently providing outstanding service for decades. They can tell who is hosting the tailgate party this weekend, who is starting a new diet, who is making taco salad for dinner. But more than scanning iceberg lettuce and making sure the eggs don’t get crushed, these are folks invested in life here in meaningful ways.

Sam Shields
Bagger at The Pig

How long have you been working at The Piggly Wiggly?
Twenty-five years, as of Aug. 18.

What is it like being on the front-end of the store?
I see all of the same people, and I see kids grow up and bring in their kids. Everyone always introduces me to their kids too.

What is like working at this particular location, in Crestline?
It means a lot. When we came back after being in Homewood, it really felt like coming home.

What do you like to do in your off time?
Spend time with my grandkids. I have three grandboys – ages 6, 2 and 1. They are my superheroes. They are what motivates me every day.

What is something people might not know about you?
I am set in my ways. 

What is something that has changed over the years?
Management might change but the customers stay the same.

What is the number one thing you buy before you head home after work?
A cold six pack of Budweiser. 

What is the best advice you can give new baggers?
Always ask how you can help, how you can be of service – all the way to the car.

We bet you know everybody’s car!
Yep, until they get a new one! Sometimes they get the exact same car just a new model.

Arrelia Callins
Cashier at The Pig

How long have you been working at The Piggly Wiggly?
Close to 40 years!

So, we understand you worked at the Homewood location while the new Crestline store was under construction. What was that like?
I have never been around people like in Crestline. Everyone here is so caring. If someone they know gets sick, they go to their rescue. They fix meals for each other and share each other’s problems. I am talking about community! You really show what it is like to be a real Christian – it is not words, it’s action. That is what captured my attention the most. Crestline is just a great place and I mean that from my heart. And that is the message I took to Homewood when they didn’t want me to leave there. I said you all are sweet but Crestline is home.

What is something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I was offered a scanning coordinator position at one point, but I told them (management) I’d rather be where I could see everybody, I’d rather be a cashier. I didn’t want to work in an office.

What is some advice you give to new cashiers starting here?
If you can’t make it in Crestline, give it up. You’re not gonna find anywhere where folks are as patient with you, even with your mistakes. You know, in all my years here, I’ve never had one person be rude to me. There was never a day when I came home after work and said I had a bad day. Not one day. I tell people that all the time. I could be feeling bad or down but when I come here, it is like magic.

We understand you’re like the Bionic Woman, with two new knees and two new hips!
When I found out that we were coming back to Crestline (from Homewood), I rushed to get my last hip done so I’d have time to rehab and be back here when the new store opened!

I used to always say to the Lord, “I wish there was some way I could say thank you to Crestline for the way they are.” This (interview) is my way – my prayer has been answered.

We think you just did!

Deborah Ashford
Prepared Foods at The Western

How long have you been at The Western Supermarket?
Forty-two years.

We heard you tried to retire but they can’t let you go.
Well, it’s something like that! It does cross my mind every once in a while. Maybe next year, after my birthday – April 30th – I can cut my hours down.

Have you always worked in the Prepared Foods department?
Yes. I like being hands-on. I started out making doughnuts here and really liked that. Then I got into salads and different stuff like that.

Do you have a signature salad?
I do a great cucumber-onion salad and a pasta salad. Now I am basically on sandwiches and providing customer service.

What does giving good service look like to you?
Just helping the customer, making suggestions for things when they are not sure what they would like and being friendly. I realized many years ago, that if it wasn’t for them, we would not even have a job.

Have you worked at other Western locations?
I have been at Five Points West first and then I went to Highland Avenue, but this is the best place I’ve been. People here are always smiling and telling you to have a good day.

What is the most meaningful interaction you’ve had with a customer?
I remember a man once who it didn’t seem like there was anything we could do to please him. But at the end, we still told him thank you and have a great day. And then he turned around and smiled. 

What do you like to do in your off time?
I like shopping. I am a shoe person! I like the Alegria shoes and anything by Fly London. I used to look for the prettiest shoes but now I go for comfort.

What is something customers might be surprised to learn about you?
I have two children and five grandkids. At the holidays, they all ask me to make my macaroni and cheese. I start with the one in the box and then I add in sour cream, a can of Carnation milk, and three different kinds of cheese. It is very creamy.


Joe Bates
Concierge at The Western

How long have you been at The Western Supermarket?
Since Aug. 28, 1973.

Always in the same position?
When I first started, I was in Produce and Store Maintenance. A gentleman by the name of Buddy Huddleston, one of the co-owners of the store at that time, hired me. I still remember one day when I was working in Produce and Ron Richards, who was the director of operations then, came by to introduce himself to me because he had heard so many nice things about me. That meant a lot.

What does it mean to be a concierge here?
For this particular store, it is all about customer relations and front-end service. And I go beyond that though. I have had customers call the store if they bought something but forgot to get it. I will take it to their house if they would like. We have some customers who used to live here at the Park Lane apartments but now live at St. Martin’s in the Pines. They choose to still shop with us so I go pick them up, let them do their shopping, then take them back home.

You do that on your own?

You tried to retire at one point – what happened?
I did, back in 2014, but our owner and president asked me if I would consider staying on, and I agreed. I work about 18 hours a week now.

What does that mean to you?
It shows they value all of my years of service to The Western. I appreciate that. And I keep a scrapbook where I keep photos and letters of recognition from over the years.

You seem to have a heart for service.
You know, I tell people that when I stand out front, I represent Mountain Brook, I represent The Western – Mountain Brook. I tell people to thank every customer too. 

What has been the biggest change you’ve seen here since 1973?
Besides the new store, the biggest change is that the kids who used to sit on the bottom of the buggy are now the ones pushing the buggy with their kids. People bring in their newborns to introduce me to them.

Over the years, you have occasionally worked in other Western Supermarket locations around town. How is the Mountain Brook store different?
I just like interacting with our customers. Whatever you give, you get back. I have one family— Marguerite Ray (of Marguerite’s Conceits) and her family— who invites me to Thanksgiving dinner every year, for about the past seven or eight years. I always bring a pecan pie and a nice bottle of wine.

What is something that customers might find surprising about you?
Two things: In 2016, the doctors found a cancerous spot which required radiation; I went through 38 radiation treatments and still came to work every day. The other thing is that when I was in high school, I was a disc jockey. I worked weddings and formals and really enjoyed it.

Linda Holmes
Cashier at the Pig

How long have you been working at The Piggly Wiggly?
Way over 10 years. I was in Homewood while this new store was being built.

What was it like being in Homewood versus Crestline?
We had so many Crestline customers come see us at the Homewood store. Then, when I got back here, some of our Homewood friends came to see us here! 

You always make a point to learn customers’ names, which is noteworthy.
A person’s name is important to them. It is important to me to remember everyone’s name and to call them by their name. 

What kind of things do you like to do in your off time?
I enjoy watching TV, just putting my feet up and relaxing.

 We understand you also substitute at Crestline Elementary?
Yes, I go when I am needed there and I am not working here.

What is something else readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I like to bake, especially pound cakes.

What is the number one thing you buy before you head home after work?
Popcorn. I really like popcorn.

Dianne Lindsey
Cashier at The Pig

How long have you been working at The Piggly Wiggly?
Thirteen years.

Crestline customers are glad you came back after working at the Homewood location!
We had so many friends come over to Homewood to see us while we were there. Even people who have moved out of the Crestline neighborhood, we want them to come back. We want them to come back because we want to continue to serve them.

What is the most meaningful thing a customer has said or done for you?
During Christmastime, we have some customers come through (the checkout line) and give us Christmas bonuses. That means a lot.

Are there things you like to do in your off time?
I like to spend time with my grandkids. I have two, a boy and a girl.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I smile all the time. (That probably doesn’t surprise anybody!)

What changes have you seen over your time at The Pig?
People now like to bring in their own bags, but we like to give them one of our Piggly Wiggly bags and thank them for coming in.

Carl Higginbotham
Bagger at The Western

How long have you been at The Western Supermarket?
Thirty-two years.

What do you like about working here?
I like working with the public.

What makes this store different?
I like the new store. I like the design and layout of this store. I just like all my customers and I like helping everyone.

What advice do you give new baggers at The Western?
I like to show them how to bag and then I just turn them loose.

What kind of things do you like to do in your off time?
I go to the American Legion and play harmonica and back people up when they’re singing. I also sing karaoke.

What is your favorite kind of music?
I like mostly country music like Merle Haggard and Josh Turner.

We understand you ride a scooter to work every day.
Yes, I got three of them. I switch it up to keep the batteries good on them. I have two you can ride on the highway but one you can’t. It takes me about 25 minutes to get to work.

What do you do when it rains?
Just wrap up and keep riding!

Will you ever retire?
I don’t know. I like working here.

What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said or done for you?
Well, they all treat me the same, tell me to have a nice day and all.

What is the number one thing you buy before you head home after work?
I like the taco salad and the chicken wings. 

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?
Well, in addition to playing the harmonica, I play the fiddle and the guitar too. I watched people play and learned to play by just watching.