August 6, 2007

'How are you today?'

Meet the four friendly faces that greet Highway 12 travelers every morning

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

Passing through Delano in the early morning hours on the way to work presents a few choices of where you can stop for morning coffee, fill the gas tank, or grab a quick bite to eat.

Many things help in making this decision each morning – convenience, location, traffic, type of products available, prices, and routine.

A big part in what makes a store become part of the morning routine can be a smile, kind words, or friendly customer service, all of which are available at four places in Delano; Conoco Quik Shop, Holiday, Flippin’ Bill’s, and Coborn’s Holiday.

As the sun is rising, many people who pass through Delano may not take the time to think about who is behind the counter of the local convenience store, but friendly customer service is something Mohinder Singh, Kristie Kaddatz, Kim Meyer, and Ellen Finn are all proud to provide.

Walking through the doors of the Holiday store at 31 Babcock Boulevard West (Highway 12 just west of the river bridge), customers are often greeted by name. Having been an employee for nearly 11 years, Kristie Kaddatz looks forward to seeing her regulars each weekday.

Getting to know their regular purchases, Kaddatz keeps in her memory, and has the items ready for them as they walk in the door – something she does often.

Some things she has been known to remember include the type of lottery tickets or tobacco some people prefer, and she even pays attention when people have had a child, been sick, on vacation, or have gotten a new car.

If you stop by the Conoco Quik Shop weekday mornings, you will likely hear, “How are you today?” from Mohinder Singh with his thick accent and sincere smile.

Having owned the store since 2002, Singh enjoys working the early morning shift, and will gladly help two customers at a time, one on either side of the register, to ensure speedy service.

For Kim Meyer, humor is the name of the game, and making buyers laugh makes her feel good.

Meyer hasn’t worked at Flippin’ Bills two years yet, but you wouldn’t guess that because she seems to know everyone who walks in the door.

Although she loves to goof around with her “Delonites,” as she affectionately refers to her regulars, she also has a lot of respect for them.

“Everyone has a different personality, and if they can put up with me harassing them like I do, I also have a lot of respect for them,” Meyer said.

Across Highway 12 at Coborn’s Holiday, you will find Ellen Finn making sure there is enough freshly- brewed coffee for everyone. Working the cash register at this convenience store for the past two years, she is noticeably polite, and said she remembers one particular customer fondly.

A woman from St. Paul had a stalled vehicle in the McDonald’s parking lot, and was looking for jumper cables.

Finn escorted the woman over to Coborn’s grocery store, where an employee helped her.

“She was so grateful, she brought me a plate of carrot bars the next day along with a note of thanks,” Finn recalled.

Getting to know patrons on a personal level is something each of these customer service employees say is a special part of their job. Kaddatz from Holiday, with her almost 11 years of experience, has many memories she cherishes.

“The customers I see each day are not just customers . . . each one is special. Without them, I would not have a job. I am honored to greet them with a smile and a warm welcome.”

Because of the great service she provides, some customers have even shown their appreciation in ways such as a homemade quilt made for her son after he was born, Linda Motzko taking beautiful portraits of her son, the Bauman family giving her a rhubarb plant, being invited to a graduation party, and even receiving Christmas cards, homemade fudge, among other tokens of appreciation.

“I’ve seen many people’s kids grow up, get their driver’s license, and graduate high school, and I’ve watched Delano develop over the years, too,” Kristie reflected.

In all these years, she hasn’t failed a cigarette sting, including several Wright County tobacco checks, something she takes great pride in. With a daughter due in September, Kristie lives in Litchfield with her husband and son.

Singh moved to America from India in the late 1980s, moving to Wright County and purchasing the Quik Shop in Delano and a store in Rockford in 2002.

He sold the Rockford store in 2005, and moved to a home in Delano last year. For nearly five years, the Quik Shop has been a Singh family affair. Mohinder, his wife Sarbjit, or “Sarah,” and their two sons all work a variety of shifts. They are proud to live and work in Delano.

Whether customers stop in for the coffee, bakery items, breakfast pizzas, burritos or croissants, they will be assured friendly service, as well as Mohinder’s morning question, “How are you today?”

Meyer lives in Rockford with her boyfriend, has two adult children and two grandchildren, and likes coming to work in Delano at Flippin’ Bill’s, where she says a sense of humor is “absolutely necessary.”

There are three separate groups of men who come in each morning to eat breakfast, drink coffee, or shake dice and even though they come at different times, they all share one thing – giving each other, and Kim, a hard time.

“They even tell my boss (kidding I hope) to replace me soon, in front of me,” she said with a laugh.

Twenty-nine years is a long time to have lived in one community, and that is just how long Finn has lived in Delano with her husband Tom.

The couple has two sons and two grandchildren She feels a strong bond with the community she lives and works in, and thrives on building relationships with customers.

“They like quality and the customer service they deserve,” Finn said.

So, the next time you rush off to work in the early morning and stop to fill the gas tank or get coffee, take notice of who is working the cash register.

If you like quality and are getting the customer service you deserve, maybe now you can ask, “How are you today?”

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