Chances are that if you frequent the Winn-Dixie in the City of South Miami you have had your milk, bread and other grocery items swiped, rung-up and bagged by Columbia Ebersole. Columbia attracts attention because, well to put it politely, she is not the youngest store clerk in the cashiering business.
“I hope you’re not going to print my age,” she pleads more than once.
Columbia’s sprightliness and consistent good humor belie the somewhat sobering fact that she has been ringing sales for the same company for over 50 years. This is quite the remarkable feat to accomplish in the modern world of employment uncertainty. It is difficult to imagine being with ANY job or company for so long, especially in the everdynamic realm of large, national chain stores. Witness the merger between her employer, Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo in March of this year.
Persuading Columbia to leave the selling floor and her customers for the relative quiet of the employee break room was no easy feat. An interview for the local paper is just not as important as serving her customers.
“I couldn’t have done this work for so long if I didn’t really enjoy being around people,” she says. A marvelous attitude really, because people may not always be at their best as they hastily grab something for dinner while carefully steering their grocery cart down aisles crowded with other cheerful shoppers.
Columbia comes from the small Pennsylvania town of West Pittsburg, population 808 (no ‘h’ and not to be confused with the metropolis of Pittsburgh). She came to Florida with her husband about 55 years ago. She has always worked in South Miami. Initially, at the Winn-Dixie that was once located on US 1 and later at their current location on Southwest 73rd Street.
Church, work and family take up most of Columbia’s time. She has two children, three grandchildren and two greatgrandchildren. Recently, one grandson, while in Jacksonville, was having a casual conversation with an acquaintance from Miami in which he mentioned that his grandmother worked for Winn-Dixie.
“I know her! Her name is Columbia,” said the man.
She cites her greatest accomplishments as being a terrific mother and grandmother. She is also proud of her relationships with all of the customers she has known and served over the years.
“I have always tried to do my best and treat others as I would like to be treated. I’ve met all kinds of people,” she said with a smile.
Asked about her hobbies, Columbia said that reading books about taking care of oneself was something she really enjoyed. Given her upbeat nature and abilities at the checkout, it appears that her choice of reading material has paid-off.
Columbia’s daughter will be moving to Daytona soon. She has invited her mother to move north and live with her by the end of the year. So, sometime in December 2012, the woman who surely must be the longest employed cashier in Winn- Dixie’s 57-year history will hang up her apron and come out from behind the register