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30 years goes by fast behind the grocery counter for Roger Cleven, voted ‘Best Cashier’
Roger Cleven has been working in the same building, for the same boss, for 30 years. And he is perfectly happy about it.
Cleven, named best cashier in the Valley by readers in the Valley Record’s annual “Best of the Valley” poll, still remembers the day—October 13, 1980—he approached Bill Weller and asked for a job.
Weller, today manager for the North Bend QFC, hired Cleven, at 17, to work at what was then the North Bend IGA. Since then, Cleven has held down practically every role in the building.
Every time he’s tried to leave, tangible and intangible reasons kept him behind the registers at the downtown grocery store.
Asked why he stays, Cleven thinks for a moment. His first thought is the ease of a five-minute commute to work. The next moment, he considers the people moving all around him, every day.
“It’s great people,” he says. “Working with good people and serving great people.”
Grocery store clerks, like anyone, have good days and bad. The job has its stresses, and cashiering is hard on your back and your feet, clerks say. Most customers are friendly, but there are always exceptions. A good clerk always has a friendly face for everybody, regardless of the attitude on the other side of the checkout stand.
“You work through it, and keep a smile on your face,” Cleven said. “On occasion, people ask, ‘How come you’re always smiling?’ Well, talk to my wife and kids. They say I’m always smiling,” too.
“Roger’s probably one of the most efficient guys we have around here,” said Weller. “He knows everybody. He’s made a lot of longtime, meaningful customer relationships, which is really important.”
Cleven’s been a department head, managed, been on the night crew—“He’s pretty much done it all, except cut meat,” Weller said.
The grocery industry, like most, has its changes. Cleven recalls the era when he started, before everything went digital. Clerks stuck price stickers on all the goods, then had the unmissed job of peeling them off every time there was a price change. In the 1980s, the cash registers were just that. Computers and scanners came later, as the IGA gave way to QFC, and three store remodels after that. Soon, locals can expect the North Bend QFC’s video rental aisle to give way to an automated rental machine.
“There is always something new on the horizon,” Cleven said.
Cleven is a true hometown resident. He went to school at North Bend Elementary, graduating from Mount Si High School in 1981. He more than flirted with the idea of doing something else—Cleven got his master’s degree in education by working nights, and did some substitute teaching for a while in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but ultimately redonned his apron back at the QFC.
“I had so any years here,” he said. “It’s a lot of work here, but when I go home, I can be with the family, not thinking of planning lessons.”
His family are wife Rachelle and two children, teen daughter Erika and son Jacob. He runs a mobile DJ service in his spare time.
Today, Roger prefers the early shift, and you can catch him mornings at the QFC, usually ready to lend a helping hand and a smile alongside the self-checkout aisle, one of the newer innovations to hit local grocery stores.
Times change, but some things go in cycles. Today, there’s another Cleven on the job at QFC. Roger’s daughter Erika is working weekends.
“She’s the same age I was when I started,” he said.