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Senior Tabreena Smith of West County High School is chosen as VFW Post 2426 and Auxiliary’s October Student of the month. Pictured from left: Auxiliary member Shirley Brinkley, Smith, and auxiliary member Eadie Burris.

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Black Friday shoppers find bargains

“Black Friday” shopping has become as much of a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey dinner for some.

Hundreds of shoppers gathered at the Farmington Walmart to take advantage of the sales and partake in the event.

While some stores such as Lowe’s, Menards and Hobby Lobby chose to begin their sales on Friday, Walmart opened up shopping at 6 p.m. Thursday while many were still enjoying their turkey with all the trimmings.

The aisles were filled with stacks of merchandise surrounded by customers waiting for the workers to open the packages. As the time grew closer people began to hover over the products they wanted and it was a frenzied grab for what was left.

Shoppers all seemed to be in good spirits as most were seen smiling and laughing as they tried to fulfill their shopping wish list. 

Popular items this year included the Chromebook, hover board, Google Home Hub, giant stuffed dinosaurs or unicorns, Baby Alive doll, PlayStation 4, Xbox One X, an assortment of movies, games and several deals on TVs.

While the crowds seemed to be calm throughout the frenzy, a large police presence could be seen throughout the store. Officers were placed every few aisles and were ready to deescalate any situation.

Farmington Police Department Patrolman Daniel Monrotus said for the most part they had it pretty well organized and the police presence tends to keep the crowds calm. 

"We actually have a few less officers than we had last year," Monrotus said. "We were wanting to have 10 and we have a couple of the sheriff's deputies helping us now. We got a couple of guys assigned to response teams so if we have an issue somewhere we can get to those. Normally we have four on the front end and this year we only have two so we can have the others around."

With the ease of online shopping becoming more popular, many chose to make their purchases from home on Wednesday.

Monrotus said he has noticed more people are doing their shopping online as more deals become available earlier and can be delivered to their homes.

While there were no physical altercations at this year's event Monrotus recalled previous years that got more heated.

"One year we had some Wii games on sale and they had it all wrapped in black plastic," Monrotus said. "The associate didn't have time to get it cut. They yanked the whole pallet down."

Monrotus also recalled another year when an elderly women around the age of 80 had someone attempt to steal bath towels from her cart when she quickly reacted by beating the thief with a Wiffle ball bat. 

"The older lady grabbed a Wiffle ball bat out of her cart and just starts beating the other lady with it," Monrotus said. "We ended up getting the towels back and the lady who tried to steal the towels decided not to press charges."

As they did last year JCPenney began their sale at 2 p.m., four hours before Walmart, with mystery coupons worth $500, $100 or $10 handed out to those who got to the store early enough.

Many stores which chose to remain closed Thanksgiving Day will be offering Black Friday sales Friday and continue throughout the weekend.

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Casey's buys River Mart stores

When the sale of the Park Hills and Desloge River Marts to Casey's General Stores, Inc. was recently confirmed on the company’s Facebook page by owners Paul and Theresa Bauman, many Parkland residents were saddened to learn that the popular convenience stores — honored by Daily Journal readers as “Best of the Parkland” for 2017 and 2018 — were no longer going to be locally owned.

It turns out that they aren’t the only ones.

“I know we’re placing the stores in good hands but I’m sad. I’m very sad, but I know it’s a good business move,” Theresa Bauman said Wednesday afternoon while working at the Park Hills store. “I can’t imagine what my life’s going to be like without all my ‘kids’ (employees) and our customers because they make my day every day.”

River Mart has been a part of Park Hills for years. The store’s original location was on the banks of Flat River. In 2010, Theresa had the opportunity to step in and take the business over from her husband.

Describing herself as a “rookie,” Bauman had previously taught dance and was the owner of two dance studios. She had worked for Parents as Teachers and was a mom. She had also worked for a cigarette company that placed her in a lot of convenience stores and helped her formulate in her mind what would make for a good store.

Once Bauman took over the operation of River Mart, she began making big changes. She started holding her employees to a higher standard and some chose to leave. The store began experiencing great success — to the point where it was almost impossible for customers to get on and off the parking lot. It became obvious that a new location was needed.

Bauman’s husband suggested moving the store up the street and in August 2014 the new River Mart opened its doors at the intersection of East Main Street and Flat River Drive. It wasn’t long after that when a second River Mart location was opened at 300 N. Desloge Drive in Desloge. 

And now it’s almost over as the stores prepare for a new name, along with some paint and new signage.

In their Facebook message posted earlier this week, the Baumans wrote, “We would like to thank everyone for supporting both Park Hills and Desloge locations. We have enjoyed every minute of being part of such an awesome community. We have loved and appreciated each customer we have served through the years. We cherish the many memories and hope we have left footprints on each of your hearts.

“We are writing to inform you that we will be closing Sunday, Dec. 9 at 6 o’clock in the evening. Casey’s General Store will re-open on Dec 12. We have truly appreciated your business and we encourage you to try out the new Casey’s at both locations and keep ‘living the dream’ like our stores and employees have encouraged. We will continue to love and support our town of Park Hills and Desloge and our surrounding towns.”

As their farewell message made clear, the Baumans' emphasis has always been laser-focused on their customers and employees.

“I love for it to be their first job,” Bauman said. “It is so exciting when they come in and it’s their first job. They just become one of mine — but I’m excited for them to move on. I think that River Mart is a stepping stone. I didn’t want any of them to stay here forever. I wanted them to keep moving up the ladder.”

All of the current River Mart employees have been offered to keep their jobs when the stores switch over to Casey’s locations, but according to Bauman, few will be staying on under the new ownership.

“They all have been offered the opportunity to stay on, but I will be honest, when the word got out, the whole town was grabbing them,” Bauman said. “There’s a lot of them going other places. Some will stay.”

As the stores face their final weeks as River Marts, a few of the store employees went on record about what River Mart and Bauman had meant to them.

“I came in right out of high school and this was my first good, real job,” said Sydney Parker. “I’ve had so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s just a great environment to work in and Theresa has been a great boss to have.”

After working at the convenience store just a little over a year, employee Kyle Hartrup said he has begun a new career in education.

“Theresa is like a mother to me,” he said. “She’s everything. It’s like a family here now. It sucks that we’re all leaving but I wouldn’t be working at the Central School District if it wasn’t for Theresa. Right now, I work with technology at West Elementary and I do my student teaching at Central Middle School starting in January.”

Judann Serviss has worked with Bauman since the store was at its original location.

“I started with her down at the old store, so I’ve known her for quite a while” she said. “They quickly became like a second family to me down there. Theresa was like another mother to me. She helped me through a lot of hard times at the store and in my personal life. She was always there for me, not just as a boss, but as a very good friend — as well as all of my co-workers too. We’ve been real good about helping each other out.

“I was gone for a few years and I never thought I’d be back until Theresa called me a while back and asked if I’d come help her out. I was like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ Even though I’d only talked to her maybe three times over the past three years, she called me out of the blue. She needed my help and I came back. She was always there for me, as well as everybody else here at River Mart, so I was going to be here for them.”

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Fredericktown pedestrian killed

A Fredericktown man was killed late Wednesday night in a pedestrian/vehicle accident that occurred at 11:28 p.m. on westbound Interstate 70 on the ramp to Route K in St. Charles County.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the accident took place when Michael L. Allbright, 51, of Fredericktown, was struck by a westbound 2006 Jeep Wrangler driven by Allen M. Davis, 26 of Troy, when he walked into the path of the vehicle as it was exiting the interstate onto Route K.

Allbright, who was pronounced dead at the scene by St. Charles County Ambulance personnel at 11:42 p.m. was transported by Lonnings Mortuary Service to the St. Louis County Morgue.

Davis, who was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, was not injured and his vehicle was driven from the scene.

In other accidents, three people were seriously injured in a four-vehicle wreck that took place at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday on the northbound Interstate 55 at the 183.4 mile marker.

The patrol reports that the accident occurred when a southbound 2013 Chevrolet Cruze driven by Elizabeth Castorena, 43, of Ste. Genevieve, traveled off the left side of the roadway, through the median and into the northbound lanes where it struck the front of a northbound 2008 Saturn Aurora driven by Chelsea H. Voisey, 30, of De Soto and then struck the front of a northbound 2017 Lexus RX450 driven by Sharon K. Cain, 64, of Cordova, Tennessee.

Additionally, a northbound 2012 Buick LaSabre driven by Phyllis A. Garriga, 64, of St. Louis, was struck by debris.

Castorena was taken to Mercy Hospital St. Louis by Survival Flight where she was treated for serious injuries. Driver Sharon Cain was taken to St. Louis University Hospital by Joachim Plattin Ambulance and Kenneth R. Cain, 69, also of Cordova, was air-flighted to St. Louis University Hospital by Arch, where both were treated for serious injuries.

All of the injured parties were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.

A Tuesday afternoon three-vehicle accident left a Farmington man with moderate injuries.

According to the patrol, the 2:44 p.m. crash took place on northbound U.S. 67 at Route H in St. Francois County when a southbound 2003 Lincoln Town Car driven by David L. Hovis, 58, of Fredericktown, was stopped on Route H at northbound U.S. 67. A northbound 1995 Lincoln Town Car driven by Debra A. Rolens, 67 of Farmington was on Route H and attempted to cross U.S. 67. Rolens' car failed to yield to northbound U.S. 67 traffic and crossed into the path of a northbound 2012 Chevrolet Cruze driven by Brian E. King, 27, of Farmington, colliding with Rolens' car which then slid into Hovis' car.

King was transported by the St. Francois County Ambulance District to Parkland Health Center where he was treated for moderate injuries.

All three of the drivers were wearing seat belts when the accident occurred.

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Board searches for superintendent

During a recent North County Board of Education meeting, multiple community members and district employees showed up to share their thoughts and concerns about the superintendent candidates.

North County Superintendent Dr. Yancy Poorman, who has announced his retirement, said there were approximately 20 community members who came to speak to the board during closed session about personnel issues.

“They had questions about how they were handling the superintendent search and the board met with them in closed session,” Poorman said. “They had their chance to speak, but there was no action taken on that.”

Poorman added that everyone keeps asking what they did, but the board did not take any action as far as the superintendent’s job. He explained the board posted the job, screened the applicants and performed interviews.

“They are considering whether or not they will do second round interviews and if there is anything else they need to do in the process,” Poorman said. “They are still discussing whether they need to check further references and that kind of stuff, which I haven’t been a part of.”

He stressed that it isn’t the superintendent’s place to hire his or her replacement.

“I don’t know where they will go from here. I haven’t heard anything from them,” Poorman said. “I think they are discussing how much further they want to go in the background checking and the interviewing process before they make a decision.”

According to the closed meeting minutes, in order to accommodate the large crowd that was in attendance, Board President Kasey Jenkins asked to have the community members speak separately from the North County staff members, with a representative speaking from each group.

Tami Mason was invited to address the board and voiced her support of Katie Bockman for the position of superintendent of the district. Bockman is currently an associate superintendent. 

Julie Pratte was chosen to speak on behalf of the community and she also addressed the board regarding their choice for the position of superintendent for the district. She also stressed the reasons the community is in support of Bockman being named for the position.

The board addressed many community members’ personnel questions, and staff member Brenda Hampton was chosen as the speaker for the group. She also addressed the board regarding their choice for the superintendent position.

The board went on to speak with many staff members and answered their questions as well. Stacy Jenkins said she was there to support the decision of the board.

After hearing from the public and from community members, both associate superintendents, Bockman and Chadd Starkey, along with Poorman and Secretary Joan Kelly were asked to step out of the room at different times so the board could discuss the options for offering a contract for the superintendent position.

The item was tabled to a future date and no decision was made by the board. A special closed session has been scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m.