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 Gino, who, after working in many departments over almost 20 years at Heinen’s, now serves as the Store Director at Heinen’s Bainbridge.
How long have you worked at Heinen’s?
I started working at Heinen’s in 2002 as a high school student. I took some time off here and there to pursue a degree, but it’s safe to say I’ve been working at Heinen’s for almost 20 years.
What did you do before working at Heinen’s?
Since I started working for Heinen’s in high school, it’s the only place I’ve ever worked. Honestly, I never intended making Heinen’s my career, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
How many different Heinen’s locations have you worked at?
Since I’ve been with Heinen’s for so many years, I’ve had the privilege of working in many of our stores including Heinen’s Brecksville, Mayfield, University Heights, Pepper Pike, Rocky River, Twinsburg, Avon, Hudson, Chagrin Falls and, most recently, Bainbridge. I even had the chance to work in our Chicago stores for a few weeks when they opened!
You’d think that after spending time at so many locations I would have a favorite, but each of our stores is so unique, I could never choose. There’s something special about each one.
How many different departments have you worked in at Heinen’s?
I started out working in the Produce Department and then spent 12 years working in Seafood. Then, in 2017 I began training to become a Store Director and have been in that role ever since.
What was your favorite department to work in?
Definitely Seafood! Besides being one of the more unique departments, the Seafood Department has a special place in my heart because its where I grew into an adult. When I started working in Seafood I was a college student, and over the course of my 12 years in that department, it truly shaped who I am as a person.
Working in the Seafood Department also opened my eyes to the world outside of Cleveland since I quickly learned that we have the distinct ability to source seafood from anywhere in the world in a matter of days! Discovering new varieties and regions and sharing this information with our customers was always exciting to me.
How did you become a Store Director?
I began training to become a Store Director in 2017 and it was quite a long process – a year and a half to be exact!
Although the training was long, it was extremely rewarding because I was as able to get hands-on experience with the role in our stores. By the time training was complete, I felt ready and able to best serve our customers, associates and Heinen’s as a whole.
Training to become a Store Director taught me that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. I enjoyed the ride.
When did you become the Store Director at Heinen’s Bainbridge?
I became the Store Director at Heinen’s Bainbridge in February of 2021, so I’m relatively new, but enjoying my time getting to know the customers and bonding with the associates.
What does a day in the life of a Heinen’s Store Director look like?
That’s the unique thing about working in the grocery industry, especially as a Store Director, there is no normal day-to-day.
My overall goal is ensure that the vision of the General Manager, and Heinen’s, are being executed throughout the store, so I spend a lot of time with the individual departments making sure that they have what they need to be successful. Lately, I’ve been getting my hands dirty with the departments to help them keep up with demand. One day I could be in the kitchen with Prepared Foods, the next day I could be setting up the meat service case and by the end of the week I could be stocking shelves. Every day is a surprise, but I enjoy that flexibility and excitement.
Although I love working with the Departments, my favorite part of being a store director is interacting with our customers. I enjoy meeting new people and making the Heinen’s experience the best it can possibly be.
If you could work in any department for one day, which department would you choose?
Seafood, but that probably doesn’t come as a surprise given my history with that department. Working in this department years ago was actually how I discovered my favorite type of fish – Alaskan Rockfish! I had never heard of it before working at Heinen’s, but its very mild, easily prepared in any style and so fresh – but that’s true of all of our Alaskan seafood.
Give it a try on fish tacos, you won’t regret it!
If there is one item from anywhere in our store that you can’t live without and recommend to everyone, what is it?
In my opinion, there are too many to choose form, but if I had to pick one, it would be Heinen’s bacon. You just can’t beat the quality and flavor!
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, so I don’t have a favorite thing to cook, but I really like using my smoker. I’ve been smoking Wagyu beef brisket using the Wagyu beef from our Meat Department, and that’s delicious.
I’m also always making recipes from heinens.com. There are thousands to chose from, so there’s something for everyone.
What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?
I have a six year old son and a four year old daughter, so anything with the two of them and my wife is my ideal way to spend a day off.
What is your fondest memory from working at Heinen’s?
This one is a no brainer. I met my wife working at Heinen’s! We met at Heinen’s Brecksville in 2003, so it was really early on in my career. She worked in Grocery and I worked in Produce. I realized pretty quickly that I was interested in dating her, but unfortunately she did not feel the same way, but we remained friends for years.
In 2007 my patience finally paid off and we stared dating. We got married in 2014 and now my wife takes care of our kids at home while I continue my career with Heinen’s.
Why do you love working at Heinen’s?
It’s easily all of the the great people that I get to interact with on a daily basis. From the associates, to the customers, to the vendors, everyday is fun and enjoyable, even on the craziest of days, because of the people that surround us here.