Chicago woman celebrates 50 years on the job at Jewel-Osco

Sandy Farrer’s first day on the job at Jewel-Osco started a bit, well, sticky. 

She bagged groceries alongside a cashier who liked to move quickly. But when two liter glass bottles of pop bumped together, exploding all over her, Farrer said she spent her first shift soaked in the drink. 

But Farrer overcame the bumpy start, recently celebrating her 50th anniversary with the grocery chain. Oh, and that cashier — he’s now her husband. 

“I said this to my husband, ‘God I’ve known you for 50 years.’ It was like, wow,” she said. They began dating a few years after they met and married in 1981. “It’s kind of nice that we met there. If he wouldn’t have broke those bottles.”

Farrer started out as a service clerk at the supermaket chain when she was 16 and through the years, has also worked as a cashier, an assistant manager and more at eight different stores. Now, at 66, she’s a part-time personnel coordinator in Glenview, where she does payroll, explains employee benefits and organizes anniversary parties — “the fun part,” she said. 

“I’ve met a lot of nice people, nice customers, and it’s just a good company to work for,” she said. “I’m happy.” 

While Farrer didn’t initially plan to stay with the company that gave her her first job a half a century ago, the mother of three and grandmother to six said she appreciated the job’s flexibility, which allowed her to switch back and forth from full time to part time based on the needs of her family. Her husband is now the vice president of purchasing at a manufacturing company.

When her kids were little, she was able to pick them up from school, and she didn’t miss plays or games, she noted. She now babysits her grandkids two or three days a week, which she said “keeps me young.” 

“You never know the future, and you never know what tomorrow brings,” she said. “I want to do it (watch my grandchildren) as long as I can. I want to be with them and spend time with them as long as I can.” 

To celebrate Farrer’s 50 years at Jewel-Osco, the store hosted a party last month (which she didn’t have to plan). Farrer’s family as well as current and former co-workers attended the party, which was complete with cake, balloons and Portillo’s catering. 

“When we were at the anniversary party, a co-worker came up to me and she said, ‘Oh, Sandy, we love her. She takes care of all of us.’ And I couldn’t help but say out loud that she takes care of all of us too,” said Farrer’s daughter, Rachel French, 36, of Norwood Park. 

Sandy Farrer is surrounded by her family at her 50th anniversary party in May at a Jewel-Osco store in Glenview. (Sandy Farrer)
Sandy Farrer is surrounded by family at her 50th anniversary party in May at a Jewel-Osco store in Glenview. (Sandy Farrer)

“Because she really does. She takes care of my dad, her siblings, her kids, her grandchildren,” French continued, adding that her mom is a “very special person.” “We all feel so very lucky to have her in our lives.” 

Farrer’s one-woman grocery delivery is just one example, French said. When Farrer leaves work, she always makes sure to text her kids and ask them if they need groceries. Whether it’s apples or lunchmeat for the grandkids’ lunch, French said she’s always helping them out (and making good use of her employee discount). 

Though a representative from Jewel-Osco did not respond to multiple requests for comment, Farrer said the 50-year milestone is not hers alone. She knows of at least four other employees who have worked there for just as long.

When asked about retirement, Farrer said she gets that question a lot. The first thing she does is find some wood and knock on it, she jokes. 

“As long as my health allows me to work, I will work,” she said. “And then I continue to knock on wood.” 

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