ENID, Okla. — Jim Stafford, 77, retired from Jumbo Foods recently. In that time, he carried a unique perspective on changes to the industry and a focus on work relationships that made him invaluable.
Randy Powell, general manager at Jumbo Foods, worked beside Stafford for 13 years.
“Couldn’t have been a better person to work with during that time,” Powell said. “Even if I tried to make him mad, I couldn’t.”
Stafford’s grocery experience started when he was 18. He was born in Shawnee and grew up in Blackwell and was working at the local Safeway store. He continued in the field after moving to Edmond for college until moving to Enid in 1970. By the time he was invited to work at Jumbo’s in 1999, he had worked at 10 different stores.
Being able to navigate change in the industry was essential and Stafford has seen quite a bit of it. He said being present from the use of cash registers operated by hand to the computers of today gives him an understanding and appreciation of the business others won’t have. It may be the reason for part of his resilience during crisis moments in history such as the ice storm in 2002.
Other than the COVID-19 pandemic, Stafford said the ice storm was one of the most difficult times for Jumbo Foods. Much of Enid was without power for days, even weeks. In addition to having to remain closed due to lack of power and a regard for customer safety, Stafford said the store itself suffered a significant product loss.
“Everything that was refrigerated or frozen, I think we lost,” Stafford said.
Stafford said he and other employees worked until midnight throwing away items no longer fit to sell. Not long after arriving home, he received a call that OG&E crews were coming to Enid to repair everything. They were going to need food.
“We all got flashlights, got carts and went shopping,” he said.
Much like the ice storm, the coronavirus disrupted business. Manufacturing delays, shortage of delivery drivers and health risks have been common problems for every company.
Powell attributes their positive relationships to vendors and related companies to their ability to handle these uncontrollable circumstances.
“When you have that relationship and talk with them on a regular basis, they’re willing to help you out,” Powell said.
Stafford said he developed many of those contacts over time, making it easier to reach out in emergencies. While they still faced obstacles, his personality created lasting customers not only with leaders in the business but also the countless young employees he helped hire.
Randy Long, attorney at Long, Claypole & Blakely Law PLC, attended college while working for Stafford at Safeway. He said a grocery store can be a difficult place to work with all the high demands, but Stafford had a great attitude and sense of humor.
“Even now, I’ll see him in the store and give him a hard time,” Long said. “He’ll give it right back.”
He said he remembers Stafford being firm with young workers, but he was never mean. He worked alongside them and just as hard.
Those he worked with said those long-lasting relationships were another product of his work ethic and personality. And Stafford said he enjoyed his work, citing one of the things making Jumbo Foods important to him.
“We’re the only locally owned and operated supermarket. The money that is spent here, pretty much stays in Enid.”