Sears worker retiring after 50 years
Geneva Watson walked into the Sears store on Cumberland Street 50 years ago as a young mother of three who needed a job.
The Dunn native shopped at the store and knew some of the people who worked there so when a job came open, she accepted.
“I wanted to work and it was near my home,” Watson said. “I was in my early 20s and I found it to be a good place to work.”
Over the course of the next half century, faces changed, technology improved and more shopping shifted online, but Watson carried on. She twice joined the “Million-dollar Club” after selling $1 million worth of product in a year and managed to keep current with all of the latest technological advances in the home appliance industry.
“It’s quite different now,” said Watson. “When I first started years ago we only sold Kenmore, but now we sell all major brands. So many of the appliances now have LED screens and things like that so it’s a lot different. The younger customers are very knowledgeable where the older ones you still have to explain to them how it all works.”
Now a great-grandmother, Watson decided the time had come to step away from the store and focus on her family. She plans to retire at the end of the month.
“The customers kept coming back so I stayed,” Watson said. “I’ve always maintained a good relationship with the employees and the managers and I’ve just enjoyed my time here. I’ve met a lot of people and a lot of my customers keep coming back and that’s what has kept me here so long. I’ve enjoyed the customers. When I’m away or out a few days, they notice it and that warms my heart. I will miss the customers and my fellow employees.”
Watson missed some time at work last year following the death of her mother to COVID-19 complications. Store owner Shelton Rogers sidelined Watson for a month following her mother’s passing in an effort to keep her safe from the pandemic.
“That was a terrible time for her,” he said. “We wanted her to be safe most of all so we asked her to step away from the store. She agreed and felt like it was in her best interest to be home due to the safety factor. After all she had been through with her mother, we didn’t want to relive that with her. Every day with her is a blessing.”
When she returned to work, Watson noticed a different mood in people.
“I’ve always been a hugger but that’s all gone,” said Watson. “No more hugging. It’s been kind of rough with the COVID.”
As fashions and trends changed over the decades, Watson’s approachable demeanor remained constant. Her consistently strong sales numbers reflected the personal touch she gave to customers from varying generations.
“Customers have changed but I guess we’ve changed together,” Watson said. “We grew old together. The younger customers are a little bit different because they do a lot of shopping online. But they come into the store for pickups so I try to keep myself able to communicate with both the young and old.”
Watson’s familiarity with not only the store but its customers proved to be a major selling point for Rogers and his wife when the couple bought the location three years ago. Losing an employee with such a successful track record is a tough blow but he’s happy for her, Rogers said.
“She’s been amazing, simply amazing,” said Rogers. “It’s a deep cut to lose her. She’s very productive. As things have gotten more technologically challenging, she’s adapted to it and I commend her regularly on her advancements. She knows this stuff better than I do. Her numbers speak for themselves. She beats these kids all to pieces with her numbers and she only works two days a week. We’re going to lose a friend as well as a colleague.”
Out of all of the technological advancements she’s seen over the years, Watson said the clear refrigerator door linked to cellphones still tickles her.
“You can stand in front of the refrigerator and see everything you have in there,” Watson said. “Even if you’re not at home you can see what you have in there by pulling it up on the phone so you pick up something before coming home. You know what you need.”
Once Feb. 28 rolls around and Watson’s time at Sears officially comes to end, she said a move to Chesapeake, Virginia, could be in her future.
“I haven’t totally made up my mind but I’m considering maybe relocating,” said Watson. “Maybe my daughter and I will do some traveling. Not overseas, but within the states. We’ll see.”
Whatever the future holds for Watson chances are pretty good she’ll face it with a smile.
Watson has three children — Xavier, Adrian and Ongelia — with multiple grandchildren and one great grandchild.
-Dunn Daily Record