This week, we are saying goodbye to dear friends of ours; employees who have been at Cromer's P-Nuts for decades. Brother and sister duo, Lynn and Kathy Willis, are parting ways after more than three decades of service apiece to the Columbia, South Carolina community.
When asked about his experience at Cromer's over the past several years, Lynn shared his account:
I began my time with Cromer's in the 80’s part time helping out with gift tins and whatever else James and JD wanted me to do. I came on board full-time in the early 90’s. My primary focus was to organize and manage a food processing department. I had the pleasure of having great people to work with such as HD, Louise, Buck, Wade, Ruby and Cleve; together we made a successful department. My duties expanded to include assisting shipping, purchasing, packaging, costing and pricing.
Some of my fondest memories are the relationships built with my Cromer's family. I will list a couple examples:
(1) We had an old outdated peanut bagging machine that continuously had maintenance problems and one day the machine went down around lunch time so JD came up to help me get it back operating. He pulled up a chair and had me removing parts and adjusting tensions, etc. We worked on the machine about 1 ½ hours then JD got up and said he was going to the house and for me to put the machine back together and if I had any problems to give him a call. I looked at the pile of parts in front of me as JD was leaving thinking, "How will I ever get this thing back together?" I stayed until 10:00 that night working on that machine before I finally got it operating because of the confidence JD had in me. He taught me so much about the daily operations of our business.
(2) James came to me one day and told me we needed to go to Spartanburg and look at some equipment. I asked him what type of equipment we were going to check on and he stated he did not know but would find out when we get there. When we got to the location and walked in the front door, I saw commercial kitchen stoves, refrigerators, blenders and more and told James I do not see anything we need and he told me I was right and we headed back to the store. On the way back, we got close to the Newberry exit and he asked if I was hungry, I told him we would be back in Columbia shortly and then we could eat. He asked if there was a good place to eat at this exit and I told him there is a Quincy’s Steak House there so he wanted to stop. I was only thinking about what we could order quickly so we could get back to the store. We entered Quincy’s, placed our order and James began entertaining the customers and staff. The people were coming to the table to watch his magic tricks and listen to his stories. James sent me to his car to get some peanuts that he always had with him and proceeded to pass out the peanuts and tell the Cromer's story. James taught me so much about margins and pricing but most of all how to be a true ambassador for our business. We got back to Columbia 2 1/2 hours later.
I have a lot of great memories, but the above I treasure. James and JD valued their employees but they also expected a good work ethic and honesty. James used to preach the importance of working hard and playing hard. JD did not like to see someone standing around and would say, "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean."
I will miss the challenges, relationships with employees, customers and vendors but it is time for a new adventure. Thanks for the memories!
When we spoke to Kathy about her time here, she shared her history as well:
I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked for Cromer’s P-Nuts, LLC for over 32 years. I started in the Packaging Department where I was promoted to Assistant Manager. After the fire, I was given the opportunity to move into Customer Service/Sales where I would eventually be promoted to Manager. We have the best customers in the world and some of them have been with us since the Assembly Street store.
Some of my greatest memories are of the store on Assembly Street during October/Halloween. People would be lined up out the door to get costumes and accessories, novelties and candy apples, cotton candy and more. We worked some long hours but we had so much fun doing so!
I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years but Cromer’s, now managed by Carolette, has remained faithful to the business and treating their employees like family. It has been a joy working for and with them. I’m looking forward to retirement but will certainly miss my work family and our wonderful customers. I wish the best for Cromer’s and look forward to seeing them at the new location on North Main Street in the future. If you’ve never been to Cromer’s you don’t know what you’re missing!
Carolette Cromer-Turner, who has worked with the Willis siblings over their careers said, "Lynn and Kathy have each been such an asset to Cromer's. They have certainly made my owning the business the past eleven years much easier. I wish them both a happy, relaxing retirement, but I expect them to keep their phone lines open in case I need them!"
We will certainly miss these two dedicated, passionate characters in our lives each day at Cromer's, but as Lynn said, it is time for a new adventure. Godspeed to our dear friends, Lynn and Kathy, as they embark into retirement!