You may know them by the infamous blue shirt they wear, by the friendly “hello” or “can I help you find something” they offer as you peruse the aisles or by their vast product knowledge and unending commitment to customer service. These characteristics make up the Heinen’s associate.
At Heinen’s, we believe you have to “find the best to sell the best,” and this includes finding the best people! Our vision begins with those who wear the Heinen’s blue shirt; they are what makes shopping with Heinen’s memorable and enjoyable.
So, let’s get to know the people behind the blue shirt! Today, we’re talking to Carol, Cheese Specialist at Heinen’s Pepper Pike.
How long have you worked at Heinen’s?
I’ve worked at Heinen’s for 14 years.
What did you do before working at Heinen’s?
Before working at Heinen’s, I spent 26 years at Davis Bakery and Delicatessen, which is actually just around the corner from the Pepper Pike Heinen’s. I spent my time there as a Bakery Manager, but also crossed into the deli occasionally. Funny enough, I actually made a lot of meat and pastry trays, which is something Heinen’s Bakery and Deli associates do often.
I ended up applying to Heinen’s Pepper Pike because all the amazing customers from Davis Bakery and Deli shopped there.
How long have you been working at Heinen’s Pepper Pike?
I’ve been at Heinen’s Pepper Pike all 14 years. The customers at this store are simply the best. I’ve been lucky enough to see three generations of customers come through this store.
Have you always worked in the Cheese Department?
I started my career with Heinen’s in the Deli Department, which was a good fit for me based on my previous experience. I spent three years there and was then offered a position in the Cheese Department. I’ll be honest, I thought it was going to be boring, but boy was I wrong. Now, I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.
What’s your favorite thing about working in the Cheese Department?
There are so many unique programs to explore in the Cheese Department. Our European Airship program features cheeses imported directly to Heinen’s from France and Italy. It’s something our customers always enjoy and to offer it in a grocery store is really unique.
We also have a “Taste the Season” section that I love because the cheeses change every month, so there’s always something new to find.
I also get to taste all of the cheeses that are in the Specialty Cheese case, which is a unique and delicious experience.
If you could swap departments for one day, which department would you choose?
This may sound strange because I’m a vegetarian, but if I could work in any department outside of Specialty Cheese, it would be the Meat Department. I am fascinated by our Wagyu Beef and am the biggest advocate for our Impossible Foods™ meatless ground beef.
If there is one item from the Cheese Department that you can’t live without and recommend to everyone, what is it?
Barber’s English Cheddar is my go-to recommendation. It’s sharp, nutty and a great melting cheese. It comes to us from England in an 11 pound block that we slice for our customers to enjoy. I highly suggest using it on your next grilled cheese.
If there is one item from anywhere in our store that you can’t live without and recommend to everyone, what is it?
The Impossible Foods™ meatless ground beef is my favorite for making meatloaf and burgers.
What cheeses should we lookout for this fall and winter?
I highly recommend keeping an eye out for our Wildflower Cheddar from Wisconsin. It comes to us each fall and has a very mild and creamy flavor and texture. It’s a cheese everyone will love!
The fall is also cheddar season, so I’m looking forward to the arrival of Henning’s Mammoth Cheddar. It’s produced by a Master Cheesemaker in Wisconsin. We slice it fresh off the mammoth wheel for our customers to take home, so be sure to grab some while it’s available for your holiday cheeseboards.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
My Vegan Meatloaf with Impossible Foods™ meatless ground beef is something I could cook all the time. I’ve actually printed out the recipe for customers in the past.
What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?
I could spend all day outside relaxing at the park.
What is your fondest memory from working at Heinen’s?
After 14 years, there’s almost too many memories to choose just one, but if I had to pick, it would be when one of my smallest customers, Monroe, chose to dress up as me, “Carol the Cheese Lead at Heinen’s” for career day at summer camp. She had everything from the blue shirt to the Heinen’s hat and even came to the store in her “uniform” to show me. I was so flattered and surprised her with a special cheeseboard to enjoy with her friends at camp the next day.
That’s one thing I love about my job is that I’m also forming relationships with the younger generations. They even bring me handmade artwork, which you might see hanging in my Specialty Cheese case.
Why do you love working at Heinen’s?
That’s easy! My favorite thing will always be our community of customers, but just as important is the great group of associates who work at the store. It might sound cliché, but we all feel like family.
Stop by the Cheese Department next time you’re at Heinen’s Pepper Pike and say “hello” to Carol!