By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN “It’s difficult to put into words what to say when an employer sees an employee retire after 28 years,” said Howard Lake Drug’s Marilyn Ringold about employee Lois Oltmann.
Oltmann, who began working at the store in July 1983, will be retiring July 29 after working at the store for 28 years.
“Loyalty, integrity, honesty, hard working, and genuinely good customer service to every customer are just a few of the qualities that Lois has exhibited through her years working at Howard Lake Drug,” Ringold added.
Oltmann was asked if she would like to work at Howard Lake Drug after another part-time employee had quit to join her husband in the tax business, she said.
Working two to three days each week, Oltmann made coffee and did other fountain work, priced the drug order when it arrived, inventoried the seasonal items, and kept the Hallmark cards orderly.
“She also has an affinity for numbers,” Ringold said. “She would do our adjudication of third-party payers, and she knew to the penny whether the claims were paid or not.”
Oltmann’s daughters, Cathy Monica, Lynn, and Paula assisted the employees with the inventory of the drug store every February, counting each and every item in the drug store.
“We usually ended the job with pizza for everyone,” Ringold said. “Lots of laughs and good times to have her girls with her; and we got the benefit of an accurate count on our inventory.”
When the seasonal promotional items would come into the store, Oltmann had fun putting together the displays, she said.
“Every day is different, which is kind of nice,” Oltmann said.
Many of the men who come into the drug store for their morning coffee were on the Howard Lake Fire Department with her husband, Chester, and some went to the same church.
“I’ve enjoyed the people the most about working here, getting to know them their ins and outs,” Oltmann said.
Although the men liked to give her grief at times, she said she gave it right back.
“You have to give it back to them. If you take it personal, you’re up a creek without a paddle,” Oltmann said.
Over the years, she has enjoyed the atmosphere of the drug store, as well as the people she works with, she said.
“Every day you have someone new coming in. You get to know their faces and try to accommodate them as best you can,” Oltmann said.
The people that come in appreciate the help they get, Oltmann said, adding she enjoyed visiting with them, as well.
“Lois has been an asset an employer’s dream employee,” Ringold said, adding, “She got to know all the customers by name, and their children, too.”
The Ringolds often received comments on how helpful she was, and how she knew where everything was.
Although she was a dependable, excellent employee, she still added some excitement to life at the drug store.
“John and I have a few stories we would like to share, because we know she will miss John’s daily teasing, and his memory about things that go bump in the night,” Ringold said.
One night, the police chief, Mike Simmons called Oltmann at home. When Oltmann asked him where he was, he replied, “I’m sitting at the fountain inside the drug store.”
It turned out Oltmann had forgotten to lock the back door of the store, Ringold said.
There was also the time when a thunderstorm had rolled through Howard Lake Easter Sunday.
On Monday, Oltmann called the Ringolds to report a “little leak” at the drug store.
The “little leak” had flooded the back room and took out the computer, not to mention that at least one renter had to vacate for a week, Ringold said.
Then, there was the afternoon Oltmann decided it was time to rearrange the candy end cap because the store was quiet.
Carefully taking each glass shelf off the rack, Oltmann polished it, and carefully replaced it.
“She then rearranged the candy with expert design,” Ringold recalled.
As she was carefully placing the last box on a shelf, the entire series of shelves crashed to the floor.
“Each shelf needed to be locked in place, and surely she was interrupted, and just forgot that little step of locking the brackets in place,” Ringold said. “What a mess! But no injuries, thankfully.”
To celebrate her retirement, there will be an open house at Howard Lake Drug Friday, July 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and everybody is welcome to attend.
“John and I want to wish Lois the best of the best as she looks forward to her retirement,” Ringold said. “She will not be idle, you can count on that.”
Oltmann plans to catch up on some of the projects she enjoys after retirement.
“I have a big yard I’d like to clean up and take care of better,” Oltmann said. “I also like to make quilts and braid rugs. I’ll do a lot of that this winter.”