Paul Heffernen admits that when he began working at the old Fareway store in Manchester in 1979, he didn’t see grocery store management as his calling. Like the high school students he has hired over the years, those early days saw Heffernen stocking shelves and carrying out groceries.
Things changed after he graduated from West Delaware in 1981. “Initially I didn’t see this turning into a career, but by the time I graduated I made up my mind I wanted to get into management with Fareway.”
Heffernen has recently retired after 20 years as manager of the Manchester Fareway grocery store and over 40 years with the company.
He said Fareway requires those wanting to get into store management to relocate, working in different towns, learning the trade under different managers. Those moves took Heffernen to Cresco, Vinton, Oelwein and Perry before he became manager of Fareway in Urbandale in 1994.
After six years at Urbandale, Heffernen and his family returned to Manchester when he became manager.
“I put my name in at Manchester and got the job. I wanted to get back to Northeast Iowa, but to be honest, Manchester wasn’t on my radar.”
Heffernen has seen tremendous change in the grocery industry over the years, from the use of computers in all aspects of the business, to how groceries are paid for. “From the cashiering aspect, it’s gone from 100% cash or check to the majority of payment now being either a credit card or debit card.”
He called the Manchester store an anchor business. “We bring a lot of people into town and we also employ a lot of people. I personally am a big believer in giving back to the community. This is a good town for Fareway. This store has a tradition of having a lot of long-standing employees.”
The store also hires several high school students. Heffernen said it’s a part of the job he’s enjoyed over the years.
“It has been one of my favorite parts of the job, hiring young kids. I watched them grow and develop all the way through high school in many cases. It’s a great part-time job for kids.”
He continued, “What’s been fun about young people is some of the best hires I’ve made, I might have looked at that individual as one of the weakest hires at the time, but they developed into one of the best employees. You just never know.”
He said he’s thankful for the opportunity Fareway has given him. “I’ve worked with some great managers coming up through the ranks who taught me well. I tried to take the best of all I’ve learned and applied it once I got this position. I think it turned out well.”
He credited his wife, Liz, with his success. “If it wasn’t for my wife supporting me and our family along the way, I don’t think I’d be where I’m at today.”
The public is invited to a retirement reception for Heffernen at Fareway Friday, Jan. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.