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Martin's employees bag the competition

March 03, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Between the broccoli and the Easter Peeps marshmallow candies, there was quite a commotion at the Wesel Boulevard Martin's grocery store Tuesday afternoon.

The commotion was Martin's employees taking part in and cheering on contestants in the District 2 Best Bagger Contest.

The best grocery bagger from each of the district's 12 stores, including three in Hagerstown, were taking part in the second annual contest that started at 4 p.m., said Matt Guch, store manager at the Martin's on Dual Highway.

Wesel Boulevard Store Manager E.G. Marshall said the winner would receive $50, a trophy, district bragging rights and have the opportunity to compete in contests against employees from other districts.

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"It's something to create customer awareness about customer service, and it's really more to create excitement in the store and boost company morale," Marshall said.

The ultimate goal for contestants is to advance to the Martin's national bagging contest, being held later this year in Las Vegas, he said. The next step is a battle between representatives from 10 districts on March 10 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.

Contestants raced to put into two paper bags a select group of items, ranging from canned foods to cookies. During some of the heats, the noise from cheering co-workers and dance music pumping through nearby speakers was audible at the front door more than 100 yards away.

The contestants were flanked by cheerleaders from South Hagerstown High School, and a pep band made up of employees, managers and even a few passing customers.

Ty Miller, a store relief manager, said the contestants were judged on their speed and technique. The bags were examined to make sure the weight was distributed evenly, he said.

The 12 finalists competing Tuesday and the stores they represented were: Josh Hoy, Pennsylvania Avenue; Heather Harne, Wesel Boulevard; Kathy Perkins, Dual Highway; Bryan Wright, Cumberland, Md.; Emily Leatherman, Waynesboro, Pa.; Billie Joe Biddle, Keyser, W.Va.; Vicki Hopkins, Lavale, Md.; Cheri Braddox, Winchester, Va.; Peggy Light, Winchester, Va.; Matt Rollison, Charles Town, W.Va.; Lawrence Stritch, Martinsburg, W.Va.; and Grant Stoffey, Front Royal, Va.

In the end, Stritch beat out Leatherman, the second-place finisher, and Hoy, the third-place finisher and top overall Hagerstown bagger, to advance to Hershey, Marshall said.

Wesel Boulevard Assistant Manager Larry Boyett, who has been with the company for less than a year, said the contest provided plenty of in-store excitement Tuesday.

"I've never seen a food retailer do this before," he said.

Staff writer Scott Butki contributed to this story.

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