NEW GLASGOW – When Donna Munroe of Westville first set foot in the big new department store on East River Road with her parents, she was thrilled by everything she saw. From the seemingly infinite selection of items to the lights and sounds of the cash register.
“I loved coming to Zellers,” said Munroe. “I was only ten but the idea of getting my school things and my clothes in the same store was just amazing.”
After graduating high school she applied at the Aberdeen Mall Zellers only for a summer’s stint. After 32 years, it’s become her career and she still gets that same thrill.
Though her time at Zellers is coming to an end, she takes with her happy memories of the people she’s worked with and served.
Starting as a cashier, she worked her way up to office staff and finally became a human resources manager. “Zellers was great to me, providing me with the courses I needed to move up the ranks.”
When news of Zellers’ closure came to her and the staff last May, it was a bit hit for the entire staff, Munroe said. “For all of us who work there, we’re like family. Now, it’s sad to be closing the doors for good.”
She said many of the people working there have more than 20 years with the store. One woman has been working there since 1972, when the store opened. The retail chain operated earlier in downtown New Glasgow.
Zellers was a community-minded store, said Munroe, pointing to the numerous good causes in which the store and staff participated. “[Zellers] participated in Relay for Life, Christmas Daddies and others charities.” Staff also found the time to get together, forming a tight-knit group. “We had lots of family picnics and barbecues in the summers.”
Perhaps those who have had the greatest influence on Munroe’s time at Zellers were the smiling faces of the customers. Over the years, she met and knew by name at least 100 customers. “We’d strike up conversations, they’ll stop and talk to us. Nowadays, they’re concerned about how we’re feeling with the closure.”
Munroe recalled the past day when two women, aged 96 and 100, had to come back to see the staff one last time. It’s this kind of loyalty between the staff and customers that makes saying goodbye so hard.
“One family came in with a small daughter and as time has passed, that daughter is grown up and now married, moved away and has a daughter of her own. I watched families grow up here.”
One of her favourite memories was when she was acknowledged for her time and service to Zellers. “On my twenty-fifth anniversary with the company, the staff got together and presented me with a diamond ring. It was touching.”
On hanging up her red Zellers uniform at the end of the month, Munroe admitted it’s going to be tough. “My parents, friends and family are my support.” She lamented that while some friendships will remain strong others may inevitably fade away. “I consider the Zellers staff my extended family and we’re doing our best to get through this with our heads held high.”
As the building becomes increasingly void and items scarce, she said some of the staff are doing the best to stay upbeat about an uncertain future. “Sometimes, we have sack races or skipping rope contests in the empty parts of the store. The family atmosphere is still here and will be until the end.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn