Students have a win-win situation with Hy-Vee

Caroline Knutson

Caroline Knutson

Since it first opened its doors in 1974, helpful smiles have been gracing every aisle of the Brookings Hy-Vee. While over time those smiles have changed, the purpose behind them has not.

Hy-Vee started out in the present day Ace Hardware building and in 1991, doubled its size by moving to its current location. Since 1991, the store has been remodeled twelve times and store manager Doug Dell says it will continue to improve in an effort to maintain customer satisfaction.

“We really want to be known as a customer-oriented business to the point we would do anything for our customers. Dealing with food, we want to make sure we’re always clean and fully stocked,” said Dell.

Hy-Vee presently employs 121 South Dakota State students, which makes up 36 percent of their entire employee population.

The importance of having such young and vibrant employees is clearly evident in the way Doug Dell treats the students.

“With SDSU students, it’s always a win-win situation. We benefit from them and they benefit from us,” said Dell. “We’ve had very few problems employing SDSU students.”

The advantages, Dell noted, to employing students are their maturity and availability, among others. Flexible schedules are always accessible as they constantly track the availability of the students.

“In a store that runs 24 hours a day, there are a lot of shifts that need to be filled. SDSU students have a great work ethic and are able to fill those shifts.”

There is a wide diversity of positions that students can occupy: anything from customer service to sackers and checkers, special departments such as floral and bakery to night crews. The option to raise status within the business is also always an option. Hy-Vee currently has thirteen student managers.

Andy Sutton, a 2002 graduate of SDSU, has been working for Hy-Vee for nine years. After graduation last winter, he decided to stay with the business and is now completing the training to apply for an assistant director position. From there he hopes to someday become the store manager.

“I saw Hy-Vee as a potential to earn a great salary. It was a very challenging and fast paced, yet rewarding job.” Sutton said.

Aaron Anderson, a senior manufacturing-engineering technology major, also holds a manager position in store operations. He has held his job with Hy-Vee for seven years, since he was first eligible to work as a fourteen year old sophomore in high school. As a manager, he is directly responsible for overlooking the day to day operations, such as making sure the store runs smoothl and customers are taken care of, inventory and store displays.

“I take pride in the store’s appearance and love the experience of working with different kinds of people,” said Anderson. “Doug is the absolute best boss I could work for and my fellow employees are so friendly.”

As in any job, conduct is also a principal aspect. We’re all familiar with the unmistakable Hy-Vee slogan: Where there’s a helpful smile in every aisle. But for most employees, the saying goes unsaid. Instead, it’s in their every action and the pride of their job.

Amber Stroschein, a junior sociology major and front end manager, has had almost three years of Hy-Vee experience working in both the Watertown and Brookings businesses.

“You bet,” she says about her helpful smile. “How you treat customers is how they’ll treat you. They always appreciate helpfulness with a smile.”

Anderson says, “You’ll enjoy your job better if you smile. Our boss always tells us to try to have fun at work.”

“We just ask that our employees treat every customer as if they were a guest,” said Dell.

While the profit Hy-Vee receives from its student employees is obvious, the benefits they, in turn, obtain are also as numerous.

“I take pride in knowing that I am paying my way through college,” Anderson said. “Going to school full-time and working full-time keeps my priorities straight.”

“Learning the importance of pulling your own weight and proving to people that I can be dedicated and responsible are the greatest rewards,” said Stroschein.

Sutton, however, says the greatest benefit isn’t about him. “The best satisfaction is watching an employee excel after you’ve trained them.”

Working in a store full of food, it’s understandable that a hungry college student can get overwhelmed at times. You would think stacking, bagging and ringing up food all day would be enough to drive a person crazy.

“I’m hungry all the time,” said Sutton. “I see various things throughout the day that look good and end up changing my meal plans several times.”

Anderson tries to avoid the bakery if he can. “That sweet smell and those chocolate rolls,” he says enthusiastically.

Stroschein, however, has a different story. “Sometimes I get hungry, but other times I see something and just think, how can people eat that stuff?”

So once again, the legacy of the smiles in every aisle lives on through the dedicated and driven SDSU students.

“Now that I’m here, I’m glad. It’s like a family!” said Stroschein.

“SDSU students are a solid asset to our store. I would not want to operate this business without their help,” said Dell.