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Wide White: Cirilli's County Market, Rhinelander, WI

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cirilli's County Market, Rhinelander, WI

This week I'm going to take a look at the summer jobs I had in high school and college. Click the following links for part 2, 3, 4, or 5.

I got my first job at age 14. I had looked into getting a paper route for a while but that never went anywhere. I started looking around at places that would actually hire a 14-year-old kid and decided to go for a grocery store. I figured anyone could bag groceries.

I dropped off an application at Trig's, a local grocery store with a few locations in Northern Wisconsin. I didn't hear anything back so I turned to the only other store in town, Cirilli's County Market. The Cirilli family had owned a grocery store in Rhinelander for as long as anyone who had ever lived there could remember.

I walked into the store and asked for an application at the front desk. I left the store, spent an hour or so filling it out, and returned with my mom to hand it in. When I did, Jeff Schultz walked up to the front desk. He was the co-owner along with Tony Cirilli. My recollection is bad, but I think he was somewhere around 50, a little tall and big. Mary Raabe was working behind the counter and he asked her (and me?) who I was. She told him I was applying and handed him my application. He took a quick look at it and said, "Hire him!"

I spent the next year bagging groceries and the year after that as a cashier. Being home schooled, I often worked during school hours, which always threw people off. I wonder how many people shook their heads at the screw-up high school dropout who bagged their groceries.

I started making $4.75 an hour, which was minimum wage for the initial 90-day probationary period for a minor. When I left I was making $5.75. I remember when an older kid who'd been working there for a few years longer than me happened to see the hourly wage on my paycheck when we picked them up at the same time one day. I was making only $0.10 less than him. Let's just say I didn't know many people working there for the pay.

There are a lot of memories from that job. I remember Tuesdays, with a BOGO deal on all bakery bread and a 5% senior citizen (55+) discount that made me sweat every customer who appeared to be between the age of 50 and 60. I remember making the 3-mile bike ride in 10 minutes because I only had 10 minutes to get to work. I remember working on Christmas morning - yes, they were open Christmas Day - and thinking how horrible every person was who was shopping instead of at home. I remember Mary yelling at me for stopping for a few minutes to talk to a coworker and get a drink and then writing her an apology letter that made her feel terrible about it. I remember Tony's kid working at the store and clipping inappropriate articles from magazines and posting them in the break room. I remember Anne Marie wearing Bears shirts anytime they played the Packers. I remember taking loads of bread, cakes, cookies, donuts, etc. home from the bakery the day after it would expire.

I remember a whole lot of other things that probably don't mean much to most of you, but I learned a lot at that job.

Cirilli's County Market closed not long after I left, shutting down not long after the Walmart Supercenter opened across the street. I had a few more siblings after me who worked at either County Market or the subsequent, short-lived store they opened, Save-a-Lot. It's always sad to see a small town icon like that disappear. I'm just glad I was able to be a small part of it towards the end.

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