Fresh off the produce line

On the day of his retirement, Tom Blore was slightly uncomfortable being the center of attention at his workplace of 21 years, the Sequim QFC.

Longtime customers and co-workers wished him well on Thursday, Aug. 14, his last day to sort through and situate the assortment of produce in the grocery store.

Bernice Swanson has known Blore for 34 years, both as a co-worker and friend. When asked if anyone had stories to share about Blore, Swanson piped right up.

"He doesn't know how to spell," said Swanson, who also works at QFC.

It seems when Swanson and Blore were working at then Shop-Rite, located across the street from the present QFC, Swanson asked Blore to post a sign on the reader board advertising oranges on sale.

"When I went out there to look, the sign said 'bag of organs' for sale," Swanson deadpanned, much to the amusement of Blore's co-workers, and Blore himself.

Gathered in the break room at QFC, enjoying cake and snacks, his friends all agreed they would miss Blore.

Produce manager Rod Davis said Blore has missed only one day of work in all his years at QFC.

"He's been good to work with," Davis said.

Blore is one of those rare Sequim lifers, meaning he spent his nearly his entire life in Sequim, which also means he knows the history of the place. For instance, he remembers when there was one stop light in town and when gasoline was 25 cents a gallon.

When he started out in the grocery business some 35 years ago, he was making $1.75 an hour, but supplemented that with tips from taking customers' groceries to their cars.

"I knew what everyone in town drove," he said in his quiet, droll way of talking. "Sometimes I would get to the customer's car before they did."

He remembers grocery stores before computers, when clerks had to mark the prices on all the products. Scanners, he said, were a boon.

Blore has been a part of the grocery store history in Sequim, as well. Once an employee of Lehman's Grocery where Lehman's Square is now located, he went on to work at Shop-Rite, on the corner of Fifth and Washington where Walgreens is now being built and then moved to Super Value, which was located across from the present QFC. When QFC bought Super Value, a new store was built at its present location.

That was in 1993 and Blore has been a familiar face in the produce department since.

Up until last Thursday, Blore divided his time between the grocery business and real estate. At 54, however, he's not ready to hang up both hats so he will continue working in real estate. And he will stay in Sequim, even though he is thinking about becoming a winter snowbird in a warmer climate.

For the most part, Blore likes Sequim's weather, especially in September. "There's no place like Sequim in September," he said.

For longtimers like Blore, the growth in Sequim is what stands out when asked about change over the years.

"Growth is a way of life," Blore said. "When big companies come to town, growth follows. It's sad to say 10 years from now it will be tough to get around town with all the traffic."

Without too much prodding, he admits it's tough getting around now.

Blore spent most of his last day unpacking boxes of fresh produce and carefully arranging grapes, apples and oranges on display stands. Wearing his uniform for the last time, Blore points to his well-worn QFC sweater and says he's going to throw it away first chance he gets. Going in and out of the 36-degree cooler throughout the day made the sweater a necessity. Now, Blore said, he intends to stay in warmer quarters.

Midday, Blore was called to the break room at QFC, where his co-workers raised a cup of coffee in his honor and wondered what it would be like without their friend joining them at work every day.

Not to worry. Blore assured them he would continue to shop at the store and would try not to revel in his newfound freedom.

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