Years ago, he was a kid who ran the streets of Bonne Terre. Now, he’s the well-respected man who runs the local grocery.
Clint Price has been employed at Save A Lot for more than 20 years.
“I was a young kid who was newly married and knew I just wanted to work,” he said. “It’s neat to look back and see how God laid out my path.”
As a 16 year old he worked at Ott’s IGA for Donnie Webb. He also worked at Park Hills Save A Lot for Fred Schnable, one of the store’s owners. He then worked at Bonne Terre Country Mart when it opened in 1998.
Evonne Williams, a manager at Bonne Terre Save A Lot, saw Price one day and suggested he apply for a recently opened meat manager position at her store.
“Cutting meat is what I had absolutely fallen in love with,” he said. “I had some wonderful men who were willing to teach me and show me the ‘old school’ way of cutting meat.”
Price was “super excited and nervous at the same time to possibly have an opportunity to provide a decent living” for he and his wife in the community in which he grew up.
He spoke with Webb, the manager at the time at Save A Lot after Ott’s closed. He put Price in contact with Don Hawkins, then and still current store owner.
Fast forward to 2020, Price is store manager at Bonne Terre Save A Lot with a staff of nearly 20 people who he'd describe as hard-working, friendly, honest and from the community.
Together, Price and his team work hard and are also creative in meeting their customers’ needs.
About six months ago they started their store’s Facebook page with the hope of reaching more people in the community.
“We were hoping social media would give a little boost,” he said. “So we moved forward hoping to not only be able to advertise our sales and promotions but also show people how to actually save money and stretch their dollar.”
The staff came up with the idea of posts about building meals and providing recipes so their customers could “really literally see how to save money while providing a great meal for their family.”
They received an overwhelming positive response from the community. Everyone – store employees and customers – was “super excited to see what was next.”
Price said the staff tries to make their Facebook posts as personable as possible.
“We want everyone to feel like they are family,” he said, “whether they are in the store or on our Facebook page because we love the feeling of community and togetherness.”
Price said he was trained in an old-school kind of way.
“I was raised watching a handshake be a meaningful contract or a guarantee of sorts,” he said. “I still believe in that. I also believe that when people are spending their hard-earned money, they want to shop in a clean store, a bright store, a store with fresh products, a store where the people still smile and call you by name.”
Those are things Price loves about Bonne Terre Save A Lot.
“When I see you, I want to say hello and shake your hand,” he said. “You’re our family and we love seeing you come in. This has been, and will continue to be, our way of doing business.”
The staff pride themselves on their store’s polished presentation. When customers enter Bonne Terre Save A Lot, they are welcomed into a clean, well-lit and fully-stocked store with a large variety of products from which to choose. But some might say the real “star” of the store is the meat.
Richie Kelley has been the meat manager for nearly nine years and has been assisted by Vernon Nave for five years. The duo recently came up with a spin on bratwursts – brat patties – which have been popular with customers. In fact, brat patties are freshly prepared each morning and are almost always sold out before the store closes at the end of the day.
They also do something most stores do not do: customer-requested special cuts of meat. Customers call the store at 573-358-2233 and Kelley and Nave prepare the items.
Price said they have had to adapt many times during the craziness of the last few months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have all experienced something that not one of us has ever experienced before,” he said. “It has thrown us a curve ball and has been quite the journey thus far.”
He said he and the staff have tried to handle the difficult situation in the best way possible to better serve the community. They temporarily closed earlier in the evenings to be able to clean and sanitize the store. They allowed older customers to shop early in the mornings before normal hours of operation.
“Most importantly, we tried to provide what people needed,” he said.
Price said the staff wanted to do their part to eliminate some of the stress and frustration of the situation. The employees worked many days, long hours and restocked numerous times day after day. They tried to stay in constant communication with their customers to let them know about the current status of inventories ... posting often on Facebook.
He said Facebook really helped with allowing them to alert customers on when they had items restocked.
“I would like to think this pandemic has brought people’s attention to what Bonne Terre Save A Lot is doing and has been doing for a long time,” Price said, “giving the people in our community a clean, budget-friendly grocery store with fresh meat, fresh produce and an overall wonderful atmosphere.”
Price, who grew up on School Street in Bonne Terre where he and his family lived for 25 years reflected on what is was like as a 20-year-old young man and having a tremendous opportunity placed in front of him.
“I knew it was God who had given me this chance,” he said. “God, who made the things possible, had laid out my youth and put these people in my life only to have them play a part in my life later down the road.”
He said he will never think these instances were coincidences but instead plans which God had for Price’s life.
“I remember praying as I started this job over 20 years ago, asking God to give me the knowledge that I needed to do this job properly; to give me the right words; the right attitude; and the right work ethic to be respected by the owners, employees and most of all the people I have had the opportunity of coming in contact with daily.”
He and wife Tonya – who has been employed at the store for nine years – have two children, Caleb and Kaylee. The family has lived in Desloge for the past 14 years.
Price said he is grateful and humbled by God’s blessings on his life and what he has done at Bonne Terre Save A Lot. He’s also appreciative of getting to do what he does every day: serving the community in which he grew up.
“Bonne Terre has always been my home,” he said, “and I am forever grateful to all the people in our community who have and still support me and our store.”
He remembers the men who first taught him how to properly cut meat, to Webb and the Hawkins family who have accepted him as one of their own, and his own father who taught him respect and how to treat others.
All of these traits are what he displays on a daily basis as he greets customers at Bonne Terre Save A Lot. From donations to community projects to fostering good morale with employees to ensuring the store is well-stocked and clean, Price wears many “hats.”
COVID-19 might have created a few challenges for Price and his staff, but they are positive and prepared to assist their customers. Although they now greet people from behind Plexiglass, he believes they’re still the same friendly, hard-working staff who are essential workers making sure customers’ needs are met one day at a time.
Pam Clifton is a contributing writer for the Daily Journal
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