Charles Woody has spent 60 years working as a retail grocer, but when he’s asked if he intends to do any gardening in his retirement years, he rolls his eyes.
“I’m goin’ dancing,” he said, grabbing his wife around the waist. “I don’t care if I never see another vegetable.”
Ann Woody, who married the fleet-footed food guru in 2002, is with the program. She met her husband, she said, at a dance in Roxboro, and there are still a lot of slow dances in their future.
They’ve earned all fun they see in their future—“pre-qualified” as the unsolicited credit card applications that come in the mail never stop telling consumers.
Woody has offered up the thousands of hours that is a man’s life to a simple vocation in a rural town. Born in Cluster Springs into a small farm family, since Woody’s been 16 years old, he’s stacked crates, recorded inventory, stocked shelves, managed almost every department and managed, in the end, the whole grocery store.
It could have been worse, said Woody—when he was 15, before he broke into the grocery game, he worked for the park service planting saplings and then for a button factory where they paid him 20 cents more.
Fortune can work in strange ways.
Woody never became the button mogul he might have been, but he did become — not a grocer, although that was the official name of his job — but a customer-service guru of the first order.
If they gave out medals for going the customer-distance, Woody would have brought home the gold.
Throughout his career, at A&P, the Colonial Store, Farmers Market and Food Lion – just to name a few—Woody put customers first and commodities second.
And it paid off big.
Woody, who now lives on Newton Farm Road in South Boston, earned the reputation he still holds today, as “one of the nicest men you will ever meet.”
His smile, his optimism, his welcoming personality fill up the room, and his wife, Ann, is still clearly crazy about him after all these years.
“Do you want to know how we met?” Woody asked, enthusiasm brimming over into the next sentence.
“I loved to dance – still do. And I was on my way down the street to the highway to go to a dance nearby.”
“And then I heard a voice in my head, a voice, believe it or not, telling me ‘Go to North Carolina, not to the dance down the street!’”
“Can you believe it? All the way to a square dance 60 plus miles away. But I walked into the room…and there she was.’
Woody smiled and Ann blushed.
“And we’ve been together ever since 2001. Married in 2002.”
Woody doesn’t plan to look back at anything grocery-related.
“It’s just a big corporate thing, now,” he said. “Like everything else. Don’t look for any customer-service or help…because it isn’t there.”
Then the clouds leave his face. Ann and I are going square-dancing — in Danville, Clarksville, South Boston — everywhere. We’re following the music.”