MANKATO — As he does most days, Jim Albright arrived at the downtown Hy-Vee Monday at 4 a.m. to put in orders for the meat counter.
Then he was sent to New Ulm, ostensibly to talk to the brewery there about making a special brat for them.
“It was all a joke to get me out of the store so they could decorate it and get people there,” said Albright, who returned to the store shortly before noon to find 100 employees, customers and corporate officials clapping and cheering him through the store to his meat counter.
Albright was named a 2019 Hy-Vee Legendary Customer Service Award recipient. Just a few employees — 11 this year — get the honor among Hy-Vee’s 85,000 employees.
Albright began with Hy-Vee 44 years ago and moved to the Mankato grocery store in 1983.
Store Director Chad Berndt said the award is based on customer service and going above and beyond. “It’s the highest award Hy-Vee gives out.”
Berndt said he’s not surprised Albright, an assistant manager in the meat department, got the honor. “He does a great job and takes great pride in what he does.”
Albright said customers are everything to him.
“The customers are my favorite. I love my customers and the other employees.”
He’s also active in the community, serving as a reserve police officer in North Mankato, a retired North Mankato firefighter and a former Boy Scout leader.
After the celebration at the store, a limousine showed up to bring Albright, his wife, children and their spouses out to dinner. “My wife chose Mazatlan,” Albright said.
People will also be seeing a larger-than-life image of Albright as his photo will be put on Hy-Vee semi trailers.
It will actually be the third time his photo will be featured on the trailers. He was on them after store directors nominated their favorite employees and then again on his 40th anniversary with Hy-Vee.