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Kenai grocer celebrates 50 years on the job

Kenai's Ava Bassett recently celebrated 50 years of working for grocery chain Safeway-Carrs
Hunter Morrison
/
KDLL
Kenai's Ava Bassett recently celebrated 50 years of working for grocery chain Safeway-Carrs

While she passes out celebratory cake to friends and grocery shoppers Saturday, customers may notice something different about Kenai Safeway’s Ava Bassett.

Even though she’s the store’s oldest employee, her work ethic has never faded. Bassett seems to greet and interact with customers more enthusiastically, with a smile and witty sense of humor.

The 82-year-old started working with the company in 1974 as a temporary employee at Kenai’s first Carrs store at the Old Kenai Mall. When the grocery store moved to its current location in the 1990s, she moved with it.

Throughout her career with the company, Bassett’s worn a lot of hats. Among other roles, she’s worked the cash register, cut meat at the deli and served as the night manager. Today, she’s a clerk at the store’s Oaken Keg liquor store.

“I was going to quit and go back to school," Bassett said. "I lacked one program to get my teaching degree. Then, it just got to be an effort, so I just stayed. They’ve always been pretty good to me.”

Bassett says her favorite part of the job is interacting with customers. Over the years, she’s watched generations of families come through the store.

“I’ve never worked with somebody that’s had 50 years of experience, or 50 years in one particular job,” said David Barber, Kenai Safeway's store director. “I’ve been around people with 20 or 25 years, but to be around somebody who just knows everybody as soon as they come in, it’s impressive to me.” 

Barber says Bassett’s work ethic is unlike anyone he's ever met. He recalls a large snowstorm that hit the area a few years ago and left many businesses temporarily closed. He says only a few employees showed up to work that day - Bassett was one of them.

“Ever since then, I have been absolutely impressed with Ava," Barber said. "She never calls in sick, she is always one of the first people here. You call her up when you need her, she comes in and she works for you. She’s the most reliable employee I’ve ever encountered, and it’s no wonder she’s made it to 50 years.” 

Kenai Safeway store director David Barber presents Ava Bassett with a celebratory plaque and commemorative 50 year lapel pin during a celebration Saturday
Hunter Morrison
/
KDLL
Kenai Safeway store director David Barber presents Ava Bassett with a celebratory plaque and commemorative 50 year lapel pin during a celebration Saturday

During her 50th anniversary celebration, Bassett was presented with a commemorative 50 year lapel pin. She’s the only employee in the store who has one. She was also given a celebratory plaque and well wishes from the community.

Bassett says the biggest change she's noticed since starting with the company 50 years ago is the price of groceries.

“I absolutely adore her," Barber said. "I’ve only known her for two years out of my career, and I just love that we’re able to do this for her and that the community is coming in to help her take part in it. She’s fabulous.”

Bassett has no immediate plans to retire. She says she’ll keep working at Safeway until she doesn’t like it anymore.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL