2017-07-13 / Front Page

A Local Business & Its Community Step Up

Christine Barnes

Photo by Christine Barnes for the Northfield News

The staff of Northfield’s Tops Market arrive extra early beginning to prepare for a very
busy weekend making sure to be prepared to serve local customers. Store Manager, Mark
Pixley, back right, and office manager Dianna Dickinson, front right, are always ready
for the 7 a.m. opening of the store.Photo by Christine Barnes for the Northfield News The staff of Northfield’s Tops Market arrive extra early beginning to prepare for a very busy weekend making sure to be prepared to serve local customers. Store Manager, Mark Pixley, back right, and office manager Dianna Dickinson, front right, are always ready for the 7 a.m. opening of the store.

Damp and dreary weather continued its grip on Northfield on the first day of July, but the forecast for Northfield and the long weekend was full of promise.  Friends and family were gearing up for some celebrating over the 4th of July, so on Saturday, July 1, the first order of business was to shop Tops, the local grocery, to store three or four days of food and drink supplies, enough for all partakers.


Store Manager Mark Pixley and Office Manager Dianna Dickinson arrived extra early that morning and began to prepare for a very busy weekend.  Just before the 7:00 am opening, check-out personnel turned on the electronics systems to make sure registers, scales and credit card machines were ready, but there was a glitch.  Nothing was working.  No registers, no scales, no credit card machines.


Customers began to arrive and gather store products in their baskets, while Tops personnel set up alternative supports for their customers.  Thinking fast on their feet, store managers made emergency calls to personnel, an “all hands on deck” request for additional help.  As loyal workers arrived, the newly-generated ‘emergency customer support framework’ began to fall into place:  “runners” took each customer’s items, returned to the shelf location, copied the cost of the product, and returned to the check-out register where the cashier and one or two additional helpers wrote down the code numbers and totaled the cost of the customer’s order on adding machines, on hand for emergencies like this one.


Slowly and deliberately, item by item, the orders were checked though the system, and the customers either had cash or went to the store’s ATM (which mercifully was working) to get the money they needed to pay for their items.


Why was no one upset or angry?  Why didn’t Tops just close the store?  To the Tops managers and personnel, closing was not an option.  Northfield is a small town, the nearest alternative grocery store is miles away, and this was a big weekend where people were depending on local access to grocery supplies.  Many grocery carts were heaped high with products for the next few days’ events.  The customers met the challenge constructively. They began to sort items for one another, supplying “runners” with items needing codes, and exchanging jokes and local news with each other.  Northfield residents expressed gratitude time and again to the store workers, praising them for their service and resilience under such pressure.


A few people were clearly and justifiably frustrated when they had neither cash nor an ATM card, and had to forego their purchases at the store for that day.  All were sympathetic and respectful toward store personnel.


The electronics issues continued until mid-afternoon.  When Tops electronics systems finally came online, management personnel gathered the receipts from the registers and began the formal transfer of purchase information into the store’s system.  Weary and spent, they left for home late that night.


Shoppers shared many positive comments with store personnel.  In return, from Management:  “We’d like to thank the townspeople and visitors for their patience and good will through the whole ordeal!  Come on back and visit us!”  In this small Vermont town, both grace and decency are alive and well among us.    

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