A former top manager at one of the District's supermarket chain stores remains a firm believer that hard work, dedication and loyalty are keys to a successful career and life.
Wendell Moore, who retired as the store manager at the Giant supermarket located in the Brentwood section of the city two weeks ago, had worked for the company for 35 years, an increasingly uncommon achievement given that the average person is expected to change companies and careers more than four times before retirement. Moore, 56, said that he has stayed with Giant because the company has been good to him.
"Giant has helped me to buy two homes – one in D.C. and one in Maryland – and raise my family with a great standard of living," he said. "Giant has provided me opportunities in management and keeps in mind, even during a recession, everybody eats."
Giant Food Inc., based in Landover, Md., operates 173 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District and employs 22,000. Giant opened its first supermarket in the District on Feb. 6, 1936 at the corner of Park Road and Georgia Avenue in Northwest.
The Brentwood store opened in the early 2000s and has received high marks for the cleanliness of the store, the freshness of the fruits and vegetables, and the 14 checkout lanes. The store is one of the anchors of the Rhode Island Avenue, N.E. shopping center that has a number of national retail chains in it and is visited by thousands of District residents weekly.
The company is celebrating its 75th anniversary and has provided employment to thousands of Washingtonians and millions of dollars to community organizations and programs.
Moore joined Giant after graduating from Bowie State College in 1977. He said that he went to Giant for a very simple reason.
"I took the job paying the most money," he said. "I was career-oriented and I wanted to join a company where I could climb the ladder. At Giant, you start at the bottom and work your way to the top."
A 1973 graduate of Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in Northwest, Moore wanted to use his education not just to work at the cash register but to be a leader at his company.
"I started as a cashier and I got into the management training program less than a year after I started there," he said. "From there, I proceeded to work my way up."
Moore said growing up in the District had its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage was that he was working "in the city that I was born and raised in" and he learned how to deal with different types of people and situations.
The biggest disadvantage was his unfamiliarity with the culture of the business world that consisted of people from different backgrounds.
"In Corporate America, it's a whole new ballgame," he said. "In order to be productive, you have to learn the system. As an African American, I have learned that you have to deliver results and you have to prove yourself every day."
Moore said that in addition to work, he had to learn how to network effectively to get promotions. He said getting promotions at Giant had its benefits.
"When you make more money, your lifestyle gets better and you grow on the job," he said.
Store managers are considered the front line leaders of the supermarket industry. The manager oversees all operations in the store in accordance with the company's missions and goals.
It generally takes years – about 5 to 6 – to become a store manager because all operations of a store have to be mastered. A typical store manager has had to work months in departments such as produce, deli, meat and seafood, and grocery and have working knowledge of specialized areas such as the pharmacy.
A promotion to store manager isn't a given. It requires good communications skills and an ability to fit in the company's corporate culture which are traits not even the best managerial candidates – those who work hard and have solid professional knowledge – possess.
While it takes years of hard work to be a store manager, its benefits are outstanding. In some supermarket chains, store managers get executive-level health, dental, disability and retirement benefits as well as generous discounts on groceries and a percentage of store sales.
While Moore would not disclose his income, Salary.com said that the median salary of a typical store manager is $68,829, with a high of $84,000 and a low of $53,000 depending on the company, geographical location, and cost of living where the store is located.
As a result of his success, Moore has been featured on company training videos and commercials for radio and television. He has also served as a speaker for commencements and at churches.
Moore said his message for young African Americans in the workforce is to get to work and stop complaining.
"Stop the pity party," he said. "You have got to have a plan and life is tough. There is no rose garden."
He said in order to succeed at Giant, or at any company, "you have to learn the system."
"Be on time, do your job and show people that you want the job," he said.