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December 6, 2018

Safeway “ambassador” retires after 16 years

Photo/Don Del Rosso
“The produce was very, very basic. We sold apples, oranges, bananas,” Frank McClaugherty says of fruit offerings of local grocery stores when he started. "That was about it.”
I can’t even imagine what Safeway will be like without him. I miss his sweet face.
— Beth Maybach, medical assistant
Frank McClaugherty
• Age: 60

• Home: Warrenton.

• Work: Retired Warrenton Safeway closing manager, food clerk, 2002-Nov. 10.

• Experience: Various jobs with A&P and SuperFresh, 1976-2002, including manager of Warrenton SuperFresh, from 1994-99.

• Family: Brother, John.

• Education: Fauquier High School, 1976.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Mention just his first name to anybody who knows anything about Warrenton’s Safeway and the praise flows.

“Oh, Frank,” says customer and medical assistant Beth Maybach, 50. “He’s so wonderful, so genuine. When he asks about how is your family, how are the kids, you know he actually cares.”

“Everybody loves Frank,” Safeway “front-end” Manager Tonia Carter, 58, says. “Everybody in Warrenton knows him — a really good guy, a really good person. Do anything for you.”

“Frank’s just an all-round good guy, a good friend to be around,” says local Realtor George V. “Dink” Godfrey, 67. “He’s a very good ambassador for Safeway. He might not know you, but the way he would approach you, you were the best person he’d seen today.”

After 16 years of frontline duty at the West Lee Highway supermarket, Frank McClaugherty last month retired.

“I just thought it was time, because I was of age where I could draw my retirement,” says Mr. McClaugherty, who concluded his career as a food clerk (“You pretty much covered everything.”) and closing manager (“They call it person-in-charge.”).

Though “nothing real specific” prompted his decision to leave, “it’s not the same company that it used to be,” Mr. McClaugherty, 60, says of Safeway.

Right out of Fauquier High School, he got started in the grocery business 42 years ago as an A&P bookkeeper in Manassas.

He managed the Warrenton SuperFresh for four years, until 1999, when it closed. His father ran the Warrenton A&P, in the building that houses Rankin’s True Value hardware store, from 1968 to 1988.

The son joined Warrenton’s Safeway as a cashier in 2002, the year SuperFresh shut its last Virginia store.

As a teenager, Mr. McClaugherty gave little thought to a career.

In high school senior year, he worked part-time at a local gas station. That wouldn’t do, his father told him.

“Dad said, ‘You got to do something’,” Mr. McClaugherty recalls. “ ‘You’re getting out of school.’ So that’s when I went to work for A&P in April ’76.”

The move seemed logical, because he came from a grocery family, he says.

His parents met when they worked at an A&P near his West Virginia boyhood home.

“That’s all dad ever did,” Mr. McClaugherty explains. “I followed him. Both of us were pretty much in the grocery business.”

The Warrenton man marvels at the sweeping changes the grocery industry has experienced in the last four-plus decades.

Technological advances especially have transformed it, Mr. McClaugherty says.

“When I started, there were no computers,” he notes. “The cash registers were still manual. Nobody was paying for groceries with credit cards. That was a big change.

“The kids — all they know is those debit cards. Now you can walk up to that reader and put your phone there and do the Apple Pay.”

Across the board, supermarkets steadily expanded the volume and variety of goods, adding deli counters, bakeries and offering a lot more produce and wine options, Mr. McClaugherty says.

“Now we have fresh doughnuts,” he says. “The produce was very, very basic. We sold apples, oranges, bananas. That was about it.

“Of course, nobody knew what an organic fruit was.”

In the old days, supermarkets carried a half-dozen or so kinds of wines, Mr. McClaugherty says.

“Look at what it has become now.”

When he got started in the business, supermarkets and other stores closed on big holidays.

“To tell me we’d be open Christmas Day — that just blows my mind when I think about it.”

Experience also taught him that customer attitudes, at least among people in Northern Virginia, changed and not always for the good, Mr. McClaugherty says.

“I found, over the years, the closer you got to the Beltway, the harder it was with people,” he says. “When you get down in that hustle and bustle of the suburbs, it’s really different.”

Not so in his dealings with Warrenton Safeway customers, Mr. McClaugherty says.

“I’ve made a lot of good friends — both customers and fellow employees. That’s really important. That’s what I really miss — seeing them every day.”

They apparently feel the same away about him.

“Safeway is not going to be as bright a place with Frank retired,” says Mr. Godfrey, who worked at the store for four years after high school, when the supermarket occupied the space in Warrenton Village Center that houses Staples and PetCo.

His retirement took Ms. Maybach by surprise.

“I was stunned,” she says. “I left the store depressed. I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’.”

Mr. McClaugherty knows the names of her four children and always asks about them, Ms. Maybach says.

“He made shopping a joy. I looked forward to seeing him at Safeway. I can’t even imagine what Safeway will be like without him. I miss his sweet face.”

“He’s fun to work with,” says Ms. Carter, who logged 24 years alongside Mr. McClaugherty at SuperFresh and Safeway. “I’m going to miss him.”

While Ms. Carter wishes him well, she didn’t want him to leave.

But, “I know you have to stop working sometime in your life and do something else.”

That will include volunteer work for Warrenton Baptist Church and a part-time job, Mr. McClaugherty says.

“I’m really not a non-working person. I want to be busy. Those couch potatoes, they don’t last too long.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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halojones · December 10, 2018 at 5:33 pm
Aw Frank Happy Retirement. I remember when the new Safeway opened he gave each of my boys a banana. LOL
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