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Behind the Blue Shirt with Dom – Associate at Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland

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 Dom, the always energetic and enthusiastic associate from Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland who’s ultimate goal is for everyone to leave Heinen’s feeling better than when they arrived!

How long have you worked at Heinen’s?
I started working for Heinen’s in August of 2017.

How I got started at Heinen’s is actually a funny story. I was living in downtown Cleveland attending Cleveland State University and I would visit the downtown Heinen’s all the time. I quickly became friends with a cashier named Cathy – she was always one of the brightest people I encountered during my day. Together, we noticed that we both had a passion for making people happy, so she encouraged me to apply. I guess the rest is history. Cathy has since retired, but she still lives downtown, so now I get to make her smile at checkout!

What did you do before working at Heinen’s?
I was born in Cleveland, but moved to North Carolina when I was young. I lived between North Carolina and Georgia until my senior year of high school, then came back to Cleveland and graduated from Shaker High School.

After graduating, I worked at the Cavs Team Shop from 2014-2016, then returned to North Carolina for a year-long internship at the Department of Commerce. I left the team shop during the second round of the 2016 NBA playoffs, just in time for Cleveland to win the Championship. The Department of Commerce internship was a great resume builder, but it was tough missing all of the excitement.

How many different Heinen’s locations have you worked at?
I’ve always worked at Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland, but during the pandemic, I spent time working at Heinen’s Shaker Heights. It was cool to see the differences between an urban Heinen’s and a suburban Heinen’s.

Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland is arguably Heinen’s most unique location, what is your favorite thing about working at this store?
The obvious answer is probably the building or some of our special food and drink offerings that can only be found at this location. Don’t get me wrong, those are all amazing, but for me, the best thing about Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland is the people that shop here. I’ve noticed that people who shop our downtown store visit much more frequently than those who shop our suburban stores, so many times, the same customers come in almost every day. That makes it really easy to form strong, lasting relationships with our customers, which is my favorite thing about my job!

How many different departments have you worked in at Heinen’s?
I’ve worked in every department. If you’re a sports fan, you could call me a utility player. Working at Heinen’s is all about teamwork and we have a smaller team here at the Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland, so I’m willing to jump in and help any department at any time!

What was your favorite department to work in?
That’s easy! I love working in the Wine and Beer Department on the second floor balcony. Between businessmen and women coming in to enjoy a drink from our wine cruvinets or beer on tap after work, to the many guided tours that run throughout Cleveland, there’s always new people to meet and stories to hear in this department. And everyone always seems happier with a drink in their hand!

Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland has a few unique features that can only be found at this location. What are your favorites?
The history of this location is without a doubt the most unique feature. Long before our building was ever a Heinen’s, it was the old Cleveland Trust Building. From the original flooring to the beautiful stained glass ceiling that sits above our ever-popular rotunda, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a grocery store with as much character and beauty as this one.

This location has even been named one of the top places to visit in Cleveland by multiple travel agencies! Who would have thought that grocery shopping would go from a weekly chore to a tourist attraction?

Stained Glass Rontunda

If someone were visiting Downtown Cleveland for the first time, how would you describe it to them?
Cleveland is full of so many hidden gems. You can’t just focus on one neighborhood. When I moved back here as an adult, it was easy to get wrapped up in downtown, because I lived there, but if you expand your horizons just a few miles, you’ll see that Cleveland has so much more to offer!

If you’re looking for great restaurants, head to Little Italy, if you’re looking for craft breweries, take a trip across the bridge to West 25th and if you’re looking for a night at the bars, try The Flats. And if you’re still not sure where to start, stop in to Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland and explore!

If there is one item from anywhere in our store that you can’t live without and recommend to everyone, what is it?
I love making homemade pizza, so you’ll always find Papa Sal’s fresh pizza dough and Heinen’s fresh-cut pepperoni in my cart.


What’s your favorite thing to cook?
I am obsessed with pizza, and homemade is the best, so if you find me in the kitchen, that’s probably what I’m making!

I love pizza so much, I started “Pizza Saturdays” with one of my fellow associates. Every Saturday, we order two pizzas to share with our team and it always seems to make everyone’s day a little better!

What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?
When I’m not at Heinen’s, you can find me walking around Edgewater park, which is just minutes away from downtown Cleveland. It has a really nice view of the sky line.

My younger sister also recently moved to Cleveland for school, so I’ve enjoyed showing her around the city.

What is your fondest memory from working at Heinen’s?
Oh wow! There are so many, but my most recent favorite memory was when Jarrett Allen, the center for the Cleveland Cavaliers, came to Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland to enjoy some wine on the second floor balcony.

He and his girlfriend bought a wine cruvinet card and enjoyed tasting through a few of our selections. I had the chance to get to know them and they were very down to earth. It was really cool to see that even big name athletes choose to spend their time off sipping wine at their local grocery store.

Why do you love working at Heinen’s?
I am a people person and I value forming meaningful relationships, and that is exactly what being a Heinen’s associate allows me to do. Between my fellow associates and our customers, I have formed what feels like a little extended family, and since I don’t have a lot of family with me in Cleveland, it’s great know that I have this community!

Dom Nelson from Heinen's Downtown


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