When Rick Leaton started working at Hy-Vee, gas was 55 cents a gallon.
He said the store has changed a lot in the 40 years since he began working there as a carry out at the age of 16.
Technology has improved greatly, Leaton, now an inventory specialist, said. Products are loaded onto trucks by pallet not on a track, inventory is taken digitally instead of with a pen and paper. The store has been remodeled and even changed locations.
Leaton, a Marshalltown resident, said he has worked in some capacity in inventory since his promotion from carry out to aisle man. From there he managed the frozen foods and dairy sections before moving on to be an inventory specialist.
Now, Ric Anderson, store manager, said people come to Leaton for nearly everything. Leaton is in charge of making sure the store's computer system orders the products the store needs.
"If you are looking for something or trying to find something in the store, most people go to Rick," Anderson said.
In 2011, Leaton's fellow employees nominated him for Hy-Vee's Legendary Customer Service Award.
Whether a church wants eight cases of peanut butter or a person saw something on a cooking show that they want to buy, Leaton is in charge of making it happen, Anderson said. He regularly researches items on the Internet and calls suppliers tracking down products.
"Rick is one of those people that goes beyond customer service," Anderson said. "I know if Rick is involved, customers are being taken care of."
In January, the company will hang Leaton's picture with a select group of Hy-Vee employees who have reached the 40-year milestone on a wall at its corporate headquarters in West Des Moines.
And although Leaton has seen much change in his 40 years, there is one thing that has kept Leaton at the same company for much of his life.
"I guess it's the people," he said. "It all goes back to a smile in every aisle."
The company has afforded him the opportunity to advance within its ranks, and it enables him to assist customers with specialized needs, he said. Working for Hy-Vee has been great, he added.
Leaton said he plans to stay working for Hy-Vee as long as he is able. He hopes to make it to 50 years.