Tommy Norris can recall the close-knit relationships created by former employees of Norris Foodland, a grocery store his parents owned in Harlem more than 30 years ago.
"I just remember how nice everybody was to me, and I laugh about that. ... With my dad being their boss, they had to be nice to me," he said.
Norris said his father, Lynn Norris Jr., moved to Harlem and built the Norris Foodland building at 180 E. Milledgeville Road in 1969 after splitting from a family business in Thomson.
"It's small compared to now, but big for back then," said Norris, who owns The Norris Group, a Martinez insurance office. "Back then in Harlem, it was the big new store."
To reconnect with those he so fondly remembers, Norris decided to hold a dinner reunion for former employees of the grocery store. The event is Sunday, Sept. 20, from 4-7 p.m. at Red Oak Manor in Harlem.
"I've been thinking about having something like this for a long time and finally just decided I needed to go ahead and do it," he said. "It's just going to be reminiscing about old times and catching up."
One of Norris' more memorable recollections of Norris Foodland is of an event in the early 1970s when his father and mother, Ann Norris, were robbed at gunpoint in the store.
He said the robbers took about $3,000 from cash registers but overlooked the store's safe, which contained about $20,000.
"They got tied (up) and threatened and everything," he said. "They caught (the robbers), but we never got the money back."
When Norris was 12, in 1976, his father sold the store to Gurley's Supermarket and decided to make a full-time career out of politics. The elder Norris served three terms as a Columbia County commissioner. The former grocery store now houses Ronmart.
Among those who worked at the store is Harlem City Manager Jean Dove.
As a high school student, Dove worked alongside her older sister as a cashier for about three years. She remembered having to manually ring up prices of products in the days before electronic pricing scanners.
Dove said the elder Norris employed many teens to work after school and on the weekends.
"It was a good after-school job (and) very close to home," she said.
Her parents also worked at the grocery store, she said. Her father was the manager and stocked shelves, while her mother worked in the meat department.
"The workers were very close-knit," she said. "They were like family. It was more or less a community place."
Norris said he is expecting between 20 and 40 former employees of Norris Foodland to show up at the reunion Sunday.
"This will just be a great way to reconnect with all those people who were just such a big part of my childhood," he said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.