Piggly Wiggly employee retires after 52 years

Shirley Hartley has worked at the Piggly Wiggly on Meeting Street for 52 years (John Gaddy/WCIV)

By Sonya

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- With a sale of Lowcountry Piggly Wiggly stores pending, one employee has decided now is a good time to retire.

Shirley Hartley closed her cash register for the last time Friday after 52 years and 26 days.

She has been working at the Meeting Street Piggly Wiggly store since she was 18.

"I started out like at customer service and then I graduated to office manager and then I was a bookkeeper, and so when they built the new store, it was like a husband and wife team, so his wife was the bookkeeper and I just become a cashier. But I love being a cashier," she said.

It's a position that fits her perfectly as she gets the chance to meet and greet everyone that comes through her line.

George Herman is one of her regulars. He goes through her line every Friday.

"She makes me smile. You know I can't see her but she makes me smile really," said George Herman, who is blind. "She is a lovely lady. I know that much."

But more people than just her customers will miss her.{}

"We had a huge celebration for her yesterday," said Jared Lott, the store operator. "We had her family members. We had customers come that knew about it come in see her off. We gave her a rocking chair with a gold plate on it that says, '52 Years of Service.'"

And after this long, the Pig is definitely a big part of Hartley's life.

"It's like a big family. It's what it is," she said. "The building is like home and then the customers and the employees are family and you just get to know them and you hate leaving them."

And since old habits die hard, she said she may not be able to stay away for long.

"I'm going to take a few weeks off and if I get bored, then I'm going to come back and say, 'Mr. Lott, I want my job back,'" said Hartley. "Piggly Wiggly put up with me for 52 years - don't know if Bi-Lo would."

Hartley said she will spend the first part of her retirement visiting relatives and attending a family reunion.