Greetings and hello!
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been reflecting on my time at Festival Foods, attempting to come up with a good idea for my first blog post. Many ideas crossed my mind, none of which seemed topical or relevant. Then it hit me, this is my first blog! It doesn’t have to be an in-depth piece on the cooking methods and history of baby back ribs, or a comprehensive look into the world of Scotch whisky, or even a well-rounded opinion piece about why Festival Foods is a great place for recent college grads to forge a career (It is.) Being my first official Festy blog, I felt it fitting that I should introduce myself instead.
What follows is my experience with Festival Foods, but first a little back story.
My name is Paul Wagner, I was born in 1988 and I am a Fond du Lac native.
My adventures into the grocery business started in 2004. I had spent a year working my first job at a gas station/truck stop/fried chicken joint/mini mart in Fond du Lac, and after being handed a toothbrush and a bucket of bleach with instruction to “remove the black stuff from the floor of the cooler,” I started looking for a new job. I soon found a position at a local grocery store where I spent five years floating around the various departments. All this while finishing high school and completing my first college degree at UW-Fond du Lac.
After graduation I quit the job and moved to Green Bay in 2010 to continue my education at UW-Green Bay. I lived on campus for a year, and spent all of my savings very quickly. College will do that. I needed a job.
I applied to Festival’s Green Bay East store in summer of 2011, and was called in for an interview in the fall. There I met Jessica, the very kind and enthusiastic front end manager who offered me a cashier position which I immediately accepted.
I shaved off my cherished beard and got a haircut in exchange for a steady pay check. I started training in October of 2011. I remember being impressed by how thorough the cashier training was. Festival offered what I had been wanting from every previous job: adequate training. They didn’t just throw me behind the register with a rough idea and an instructional video; they took every precaution to make sure I knew what I was doing before I was left alone. While I cashiered I helped out where I could, I would work in the meat department and on occasion bag a grocery or two.
After I graduated from UW-Green Bay with a shiny new degree, I moved to Appleton to be closer to my friends and family in Fond du Lac while still maintaining the “city” feel. I transferred to the Darboy store as a cashier. I worked there part time while searching for a post-college job in my spare time. I began to notice the job opportunity board at my store and started looking for advancement. I began to talk with the Front End manager, Tesia, and the Store Director, Mike. They recommended jobs that fit with my experience and education. I soon began training for a Shift Management job, and around the same time Tesia informed me that the Support Office was looking for someone to answer customer emails and help monitor the social media aspect of the company. I knew instantly that this was my job; I knew it before I even sat down for an interview. Since then I’ve been working at the Darboy store as a Shift Manager, date checking, cashiering, working in receiving, and helping out at the Support Office.
Festival Foods is an interesting place, very different than any company I’ve worked for. From a certain viewpoint they can come across as very strict, and I still don’t understand all of the sports references in their day to day policies (huddle-ups, game balls, etc..) but I’m working on it. I’ve made mistakes, and remember reviewing videos of those mistakes with my manager. Though intense at the time, in hindsight it offered perspective; it’s difficult to see errors in your own ways until you see yourself from someone else’s perspective. I started to put myself in the shoes of the guest, “how would I expect the person representing this company to act?” I asked myself. These high standards have transformed me from a college student into an adult. Festival Foods expects a lot from their employees, but if you’re patient and willing to work for it, you get a lot in return.