By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

 GRAPELAND – The grand opening of the new Brookshire Brothers Express in Grapeland is fast approaching and with that in mind, a job fair was held last week to begin filling the positions necessary to operate the grocery store.

On Wednesday, Sept. 21 representatives from the grocery retailer arrived in the Queen City of the Sand Flats and set up shop at the Grapeland Public Library (GPL). The first day was primarily for interviewing managerial candidates. Many of the applicants had exceptional qualifications and would be a positive addition to the Brogplokshire Bros. family, according to the grocer’s on site representatives.

Day two of the job fair began just after 10 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22 and was the first step in hiring the hourly employees needed to staff Grapeland’s newest business. GPL Librarian Ashley Corns commented on the turnout and indicated by 11:00 a.m., “… about 30 or 40 people have already come through and we haven’t even been open an hour. They (applicants) were waiting on the steps when I pulled up this morning. Brookshire Bros. will be here at least until 4:00 p.m. today, but could be here until around five, or so.”

Several of the applicants spoke about the interview process as they were leaving the library and all expressed excitement about the store coming to Grapeland, as well as the potential of beginning a new career with the employee-owned business.

Steven Chapman and Sharee Lewis said they were hoping to be hired as stockers, but emphasized their flexibility to work in other positions within the store.

Wh
en asked about the interview process, Chapman said, “It was a fairly easy process to see the positions that were open and what they have to offer. Basically, now I’m just waiting on a call back.”

Lewis added, “It was in and out. It was very fast – a quick process.”

Chapman said he was initially interviewed by Recruitment and Employee Relations Specialist Marilyn Jones. “She asked, ‘What do you know? What do you want to do? And, do you have any experience?’ There was a little bit of a background check but other than that, it was pretty simple,” he said.

As to when they expected to hear from the company, Lewis explained, “They told us it would be as soon as possible – maybe in a couple of interviewdays.”

“They will be interviewing people today up until five o’clock and then they’ll call people back. I think everybody who has interviewed so far has a pretty good shot. I believe Brookshires is bringing a good, warm welcome to Grapeland. The community, the public – there is a lot of excitement about this in Grapeland. It’s something we’re all looking forward to,” Chapman remarked.

Another person who interviewed for a position with Brookshire Bros. was Grapeland High School senior Rodney Davis.

“I believe you have to be 18 years old or older to work here,” Davis said. “I applied to be a stocker or cashier. Basically, just about anything I could get. The interview process was good. They let me know it was an opportunity with a growing company. All I can do now is give it to the Lord and let it go from there.”

As to the interview process, Davis said, “I filled out the application and turned it in. I let them know I was still in school and was involved in athletics. They told me they would give me a call. The lady I interviewed with (Jones) was very nice and energetic. I guess I just like being around people who are outgoing.”

During a break in the action, Brookshire Bros. District Director Luke Gustafson took time to discuss the job fair. “It’s outstanding. We are very pleased with the turnout and with the support of the community. We are very excited about what we are seeing. We have great candidates who will be able to help us serve the community of Grapeland well through local employees,” he said.interview-2

As to the candidates who had already been seen, the District Director commented, “We’ve been able to offer some positions already and we have a stack (of applications) that we will deliberate on and start making some decisions. We’ve been very pleased with turnout and the caliber of applications. So obviously, we’re very excited.”

In regard to managerial positions, Gustafson said, “We are positioned right now where we feel like we have the managerial roles filled.”

Gustafson explained the store management would be comprised of a store director, an assistant director, a meat department manager, a deli department manager and several other core positions.

“We are looking to hire close to a total of 40 employees, through a combination of full and part-time positions. Out of the 40 there will be about seven full time positions. The full time employees will have a benefits package including insurance, vacation, paid holidays and because we are a 100 percent employee owned company, after a vesting period, the employees will be eligible for Brookshire Bros. stock,” he indicated.

The “Express” format of the store was also described by Gustafson. “One of the things about the ‘Express’ format is we are seeing a lot of growth throughout the industry in prepared entrees in the hot deli. We will also be offering a full service meat department and a produce department. That has definitely been a differentiator for smaller towns being able to have that component of fresh with an assortment of grocery, non-food, health and beauty care items, as well as a pharmacy. This is the first ‘Express’ format we’ve had that will have a pharmacy and we’re very excited about that. There has been a lot of chatter on social media and on our website about how excited the community is to have us here, especially with the pharmacy and deli.”

The opportunity for growth within the company was also brought up. “Our company is growing. We are opening this store and we have three others slated to open this year. We will also be planning for some growth in Fiscal Year 2018. There is definitely growth in our future. One thing about Brookshire Bros. is it’s a very family-oriented company. We havjob-fair-linee been around since 1921 and what you will see with a lot of the leadership in the company is that a lot of us started at the entry level – like a sacker or a stocker – and worked our way up. We have a very clearly defined career path where you can work your way up. We have a tuition assistance program to where we can assist with degrees for people who are interested in growing with the company. We promote from within and we like to open those opportunities and shine a lot of light on future opportunities for our associates. As I was telling a gentleman earlier, I started with company when I was 16-years-old. It was my very first job and it was a bagger. I worked my way up, went through the tuition assistance program and got my degree. I ran stores for about 10 years and went into the district director’s role from there. That is a typical career path that you see in the leadership of our company,” he said.

The store is set to open on Oct. 26 and the hours of operation will be from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., seven days a week. The store closes “… on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, so our associates can celebrate time with their families,” Gustafson said.

He added, “We are on target and on track (for the Oct. 26 opening). It’s been very good for us because that was the original date we announced and we will be able to stick to it. We’re pouring cement today on the parking lot and that’s right on track with the scope of work timeline.”

Friday, Sept. 23 was designated as a “call-back” day and a continuation of the interview process. It was also slated as a day to extend preliminary offers to individual applicants, dependent upon the results of a background check.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.