Rock Hill store clerk: ‘We take a lot of pride in it’
There were hugs and tears at a busy Rock Hill 7-Eleven convenience store on Cherry Road the day before #7ElevenDay across America. Yet the sorrow was not for a crisis. Customers were sad because word started to get around that the longtime manager, Joyce Cook, is leaving.
At this store, Cook is not just some lady behind the counter.
“I pass four stores just to come here every day and see Joyce,” said regular customer Dale West. “She’s family to me and so many people.”
West gave Cook a hug.
Regular customer Afton Walker came in for coffee as he does almost every day.
“I come here almost every day because of the crew here,” Walker said. “Joyce makes my day every time I am here. She’s wonderful.”
Walker wanted a hug. He got one.
Becky Blackmon, a clerk who has worked for Cook for five years, rang up a customer and tried not to cry. She failed.
“It has been a pleasure, an honor, to work with Joyce,” Blackmon said. “She has taught me so much.”
Many more got hugs after seeing all the hugging. Joyce Cook, she is a hugger.
Cook calls customers, be they regulars or strangers, “honey,” and “sweetheart,” and “sweetie.”
“I just love these people,” Cook said. “This is a community store, a neighborhood store. This is family.”
This is a lady who at age 61 has spent most of the past 40 years as a convenience store manager. She worked at a Celanese Road store for five years. The last seven have been at this same 7-Eleven store on Cherry Road across from Cherry Park. Cook has worked countless double shifts and overnights, through snowstorms and heat waves.
“I started at 18 and was a manager at 20 and have done it ever since,” Cook said.
Cook has become such a Rock Hill fixture that when she and her husband go out to dinner or to the grocery store, people come up to Joyce and want to talk. They buy her meals, tell them about graduations, hug her as she has hugged them.
“Everywhere we go, people know Joyce,” said Cook’s husband, Robert Dye.
Cook has a special spot for all her customers, but she has a deep love for law enforcement. Cook has cookies and pizza delivered to the Rock Hill Police Department at least twice every year. Cops stop at her store all the time for coffee or a snack.
Any store clerk will tell you that it is a safe feeling to have cops inside and a cop car outside, but for Cook, the connection with police is deeper.
“These officers are here to take care of all us in this community, and they do, so we should take care of them,” Cook said.
Cook is leaving the Rock Hill store because the store will be under new ownership soon, said Eric Jockers, field consultant for 7-11 in Charlotte. The store will remain a 7-Eleven, Jockers said.
Cook will take over a 7-Eleven store at the intersection of Westinghouse Boulevard and South Tryon Street in Charlotte. Her last day in Rock Hill is in a couple of weeks.
But first, on 7/11 when the 7-11 chain across America has promotions on what is called #7ElevenDay, this one store will fold in a special thank you to the departing manager. From noon to 2 p.m., the store will have a DJ, hula hoop contest, hot dog eating contest, cookie decorating and face painting in part as a tribute to Cook and her special bond with the customers and community, Jockers said.
The store will have dollar hot dogs a one free small Slurpee for each customer from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“For us, this is Joyce’s last hurrah at the store where she is so loved, and we wanted people who know her to be able to come in and see her and be with her,” Jockers said.
Cook leaves the store with fond memories of a place where she became a legendary and beloved fixture.
“These people who come here are special,” Cook said. “What I will miss most is the familiarity with my customers. The people. They are customers, but they are more. They are my family and I will miss them.”