PENNINGTON: Cashier retires after 50 years at Shop-Rite

One day in 1963, Dot Mason, her good friend and classmate at Hopewell Valley Central High School, approached Sharon McAchen — her name is Sharon Loper now — with a bright idea.

By John Tredrea, Special Writer
   One day in 1963, Dot Mason, her good friend and classmate at Hopewell Valley Central High School, approached Sharon McAchen — her name is Sharon Loper now — with a bright idea.
   ”I just got a job at the Pennington Shop-Rite,” Dot said. “You should go over there and apply, too.”
   Seventeen-year-old Sharon did just that. She was hired as a part-time cashier, at $1.25 an hour.
   She kept her job at Shop-Rite for a solid half-century.
   ”Friday is my last day, honey — Friday the 13th!” Ms. Loper said last Wednesday.
   A remarkably friendly and jovial woman, she ends many sentences of a conversation by calling her listener “honey.” The sound of laughter always seems to be subtly lingering, in an altogether charming way, in her voice.
   Strolling down Shop-Rite’s Aisle Four, she remarked that one of the things she’s liked best about working there is the music they play over the P.A. system. Being played just then was The Beatles’ “I Call Your Name.”
   Clearly Ms. Loper knew this song well and liked it quite a bit, because she vocalized softly along with it, sometimes singing the words, sometimes humming or scat singing. She got some dancing into her walk as well, swaying to the beat and snapping her fingers lightly while she gestured a bit with her arms and hands, the way you do when you’re dancing.
   ”I’m very happy to be retiring — I can’t wait, honey! — but this has been a good job for me, real good,” she said. “I’m a friendly person. I like people.”
   She must have had tens of thousands of face-to-face encounters with people at Shop-Rite, because almost all of her 50 years there was as a cashier.
   ”I started as a cashier, then they moved me to the non-foods department for a while,” she said. “I told them — ‘I want to go back out front, please’ — and they put me back at cashier. I’ve been here ever since.”
   What’s it like being a cashier in a busy supermarket?
   ”You have to have patience,” she said. “It can get hectic. Almost all the customers are very nice, but some of them will, well, test you, if you know what I mean. That’ll get to you sometimes, but you just have to work through it, you have to always be nice, always be courteous and smile. That way, they’ll come back.”
   Some regular customers will only go through her check-out line, no matter what. “Sometimes a manager will suggest that a customer move to a line that’s shorter than the line at my register,” she said. “And they’ll say: ‘Oh, no, that’s OK We’ll wait for Sharon.’”
   Ms. Loper moved to Pennington from Hopewell Borough when she was in the sixth grade and has lived in Pennington, on South Main Street, ever since. Hers is a two-family house. She lives in one half. Her mother, Doris McAchen, lives in the other half.
   ”I’ll be taking care of Mom after I retire,” Ms. Loper said. “We like to sit on the porch when the weather is good, waving to people we know as they go by.”
   Other retirement plans?
   ”I want to take swimming lessons,” Ms. Loper said decisively. “And just relax. I love to knit, like my Mom. I have no other firm plans yet. I’m sure I’ll do some traveling. I love to travel.”
   She’s sure she’ll do some of that traveling with her old pal, Dot Mason, who steered her to Shop-Rite 50 years ago. Ms. Mason lives a few blocks from Ms. Loper and they still see each other often.
   ”Dot and I have been, everywhere, seems like,” Ms. Loper said. “We’ve been to Italy, Holland, Paris, Turkey. We’ve even been to Alaska, honey — twice!”