Seymour man retires after 50 years in grocery business

Hugh Schneider was surprised on two recent occasions.

On March 31, his last day at JayC Food Store on the far west side of Columbus, he was going to leave 15 minutes early. The store manager, though, asked him to stick around until 5 p.m.

It’s a good thing he did because 14 of his family members, including his wife, Jeanie, three daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren, arrived with balloons and signs.

Then two days later, he thought he was going to his grandson’s birthday party at Three Bin Farm LLC in Seymour. When he walked in, though, nearly 80 people were there, including family, friends and co-workers over the years.

The purpose of both celebrations was to recognize the 66-year-old Seymour resident on 50 years of working in the grocery business.

“I was totally shocked,” he said. “The comments from the party were just unreal. That made me feel so good.”

At the surprise retirement party, cookies were decorated with the logos of the grocery stores he worked for over the years: Nolting’s, Marsh and JayC.

His career started as a carryout at Nolting’s in Seymour in 1972. After graduating from Seymour High School in 1974, he continued working there for 20 more years.

“I planned on going to college, but I took a liking to this. I saw a future,” Schneider said. “I told Mom and Dad, I said, ‘I don’t think college is for me.’ I really enjoyed doing this. I saw a future down the road.”

After a few years as a carryout, he ran different departments in the store before moving up to assistant manager.

Schneider said he really liked working for Nolting’s owner Bill Nolting. There also were stores in Crothersville, Brownstown, Edinburgh, Salem, Jeffersonville and Richmond.

“Bill has always been my idol,” Schneider said. “Different leadership meetings I went to over the years, Bill was the one I always used as an example that he was the one that I want to say taught me the business, the disciplines and everything. They would ask who was your idol or who did you look up to, and it was always Bill Nolting. Bill was one of those guys, he would speak to everybody, and that’s what made the business.”

When Nolting’s was sold, Schneider moved on to JayC for five years and managed several stores in the area.

He then spent the next 18 years with Marsh Supermarkets, a retail food chain that was headquartered in Indianapolis. He held different positions, including one he really enjoyed, merchandising.

“At the time, Marsh was a very well-respected company of the future,” Schneider said, noting it was the first supermarket company to have scanner registers.

After Sun Capital acquired Marsh, Schneider received a phone call from JayC’s district manager about returning to the company.

He started as an assistant manager for three weeks in Brownstown before moving to the west side store in Seymour for three years. Four years ago, he became an assistant manager at the North Vernon store. Then he spent the last year and a half in Columbus.

In all of his years in the grocery business, Schneider said technology was the biggest change.

Besides the introduction of scanner registers, workers went from writing down merchandise codes and keying them into a system to place an order to having a system that does it automatically.

“All of our department heads, like meat, frozen food, dairy, produce, all of that would be automatically ordered. You’d still have to monitor it and everything,” Schneider said. “There’s just a lot of technology anymore, which in some cases, it does make life a lot easier.”

Also, JayC added pharmacies to some of its stores, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the company adding a grocery pickup option for customers.

“People didn’t want to come in the stores, so that has been another big advancement,” Schneider said of pickup. “The COVID thing was really a challenge. We made it through it, but it was really a challenge, and Kroger came through that so good.”

Despite changes through the years, Schneider said one thing remained the same: Customers.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in the 50 years, but it still boils down to taking care of the customer,” he said. “Being friendly, that’s one thing Kroger and JayC is really big on: The customer is first, fast, friendly service, in stock.”

Initially, Schneider said his goal was to retire when he was 62. He, however, wound up staying until he was 66 and four months so he could get full retirement.

“I’m glad I held onto it. It just worked out perfect,” he said. “Nowadays, I think it’s an accomplishment if you stay in the business for 50 years. I’m glad I did. You just can’t imagine the amount of people I came in contact with over the years. I just feel very blessed. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the business. It has been great to me.”

Schneider took a couple of weeks off after retiring, and now, he’s set for his next venture: Substitute teaching at local schools. His wife is a teacher at Seymour-Redding Elementary School.

“There’s such a shortage on subs, and I feel like it’s my duty, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “I think it’s something I’ll enjoy because no nights, no holidays, no weekends and off during the summer, and I can work when I want to. The reason I’m wanting to do this is to get out of the house, stay active, keep my mind going.”

In June, he and Jeanie plan to go to Italy to attend the wedding of a foreign exchange student they hosted a few years ago. He and his family came to Seymour when one of the Schneiders’ daughter, Katlynn, married.

Schneider also will have more time for his hobbies, including golfing, bicycle riding, fishing and spending time on the family pontoon boot at Monroe Lake.