Ten years ago, Eagle Food Center worked together to create customer satisfaction, then wept over the loss of their jobs and finally said goodbye to a company they had loved.

They still consider each other as family, so it's small wonder that Sunday's picnic reunion at Indian Bluff Forest Preserve in Milan had a family atmosphere that ranged from laughter to tears. Old friends gathered to catch up and reminisce about the Quad-City-based Midwest grocery store chain that closed in 2003.

Employees from various departments and positions were delighted to see each other and enjoy a picnic and golf outing.

“It’s a chance to get together and catch up,” said Dave Miller, now a family service counselor at Dignity Memorial Funeral Homes, Davenport. Miller, a former bakery director, left the Eagle company about seven years before it closed. Others at the picnic, he said, “were there at the bitter end.”

That bitter end — the beginning of the closure of Eagle stores — brings tears to the eyes of former employees who still grieve at the thought of losing their jobs.

Al Larson, of Rock Island, remembers that his last day in the advertising department at Eagle was “Pearl Harbor Day, 1993. We were the beginning of the end,” he said. “On Dec. 7, they called us into the cafeteria and told us we were done. While that was happening, the department heads were telling everyone else. My wife worked in the meat department, and she freaked.”

Larson remembers that the employees were told to collect their belongings in boxes that had been placed beside their desks, “and they had security watching us.” His eyes moistened as he remembered.

Larson had a job the next day at Graphic Image, Davenport. “Eagle was our client,” he said. He then went to Brandt Co., where he has worked for 16 years.

“I’ve never been unemployed since 1974,” he said. “I started working at Eagle when I was 16.”

Joanne Larson, Al Larson's wife, was a buyer’s clerk in the meat department at Eagle. “There were 11 of us in August of ’95 who got it that day,” she said. “All spectrums, all ages, all different numbers of years of service. It was all-encompassing. Everybody was blind-sided.”

Now a visitors’ associate at The Putnam Museum, Davenport, Larson worked part-time at Younkers until her unemployment ran out, then Younkers hired her full-time.

“We all knew it was coming,” said Roxie McKamey, of Bettendorf. “I just didn’t know the date.”

She worked in several facets of the company during her years at Eagle. “I miss all my friends,” McKamey said. “It was a good place to work …. I love all these guys. We all took care of each other.”

She remembers that each department “adopted” an Eagle family who needed some financial assistance during the holidays. She, too, attended college, and graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average with an associate's degree from Scott Community College. She is unable to work now because of her health.

"A lot of us did that (returned to school)," said Carol Yodts, who now works for Avadyne Health in Moline. She was out of work for six months before she finished her associate's degree at Black Hawk College.

Joyce Ford, of Rock Island, was a floater in the warehouse accounting department. “There was so much vacation in the department I never lacked for anything to do,” she said. “I had only been there 16 years, compared to people who had been there 25 and 30 years.”

Now she works in the customer service department at Carlin Automation in Rock Island, where she has been employed for more than nine years.

The first picnic was held six years ago, said Janine Moffitt, of Rock Island, who organized the event with Yodts and Nancy Harris, both of Rock Island. “Once a month, there’s a group of us girls that still get together for lunch,” Moffitt said. The smaller group thought it would be nice to include other former Eagle employees, and that’s how the first picnic was developed.

At the picnics, “We have a really good time,” Harris said. “We’re all from different departments. It was a big family. I would go back today if I could,” said Harris, who was a buyer’s clerk in the grocery department.

Moffitt, who was with Eagle for 33 years, worked in marketing support with “the saver’s card and promotions,” she said. “They didn’t let everybody go at the same time,” she said.

“There was like nine of us that got let go at once,” Harris said. All nine were called into a room where administrators told them they had lost their jobs. “We had to go back to our desks and get our purses … it was awful,” she remembered. “We were crying.”

Moffitt, who now works for the Rock Island County Clerk’s office, said a group of former employees began meeting once a week for lunch, asking others who joined the group, “Have you heard anything?” When she first was offered what became her new position, she shared the good news with her lunch group. “One of the girls said, ‘How much does it pay?’ And I said I didn’t know. All I cared about was that I had a job with benefits.”

(8) comments

DarwinsMyth
DarwinsMyth

I saw the writing on the wall, at least 10 years before they forced me out the door in Sept. 2003. There is "writing-on-the-wall" for many things in our lives, if only we would become more alert... we would then, be able to be more prepared and less surprised when they do happen. For example... Political Correctness today, is conditioning our minds to ignore many things that we should not ignore... like, Islam having over 2100 mosques in the U.S. and growing at an alarming rate, while our own government tells us, Islam is a peaceful religion. If you believe that, then I have some beach front property to sell you in Iran. Sorry, I got off subject, but we wouldn't be so surprised when certain bad things happen in our lives, if we would pay attention to our surroundings, and stop pretending that everything will get better. There's a saying... hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. One of the things I'm hoping for, is this, that everyone I worked with at the warehouse is doing well.

Shef

The union shut Eagle down. It was too hard for them to keep their prices competitive when they were paying inflated wages for unskilled labor like stock boys and bag boys.

DarwinsMyth
DarwinsMyth

You're so right. If only Eagle was able to make the grocery stores non-union, just like Hy-vee Foods. I can remember walking into the Eagle Foods store in Milan, and there were probably 5 or so, employees working, while the Hy-vee store across the street had at least 20 employees working. Unions are good up to a point. After that, there is too much greed, and greed comes before a fall. Even our state governments are being affected (or infected) by the unions, where schools are getting less funding because the unions and its greedy members are getting the tax dollars instead.

Klaatu
Klaatu

The grocery business is unbelievably competitive. We once had Geifman's here too. Yeah, it's easy to start the "soulless bags of greed" cra*, but they couldn't make a profit. Would you pay more to keep them open? No, you do like everyone else, you go for the best deal. Publicly owned businesses have to return a profit margin that attracts investors. If they aren't efficiently operated they disappear. That is the truth, it isn't corporate greed. Corporations are owned by stockholders who depend on their investment income. Many of them are older people and pension plans. It is it evil for YOUR pension plan to earn a return and make your pension secure? Longjohn, you may not be soulless but you probably are clueless.

jodiboyd

Interesting how these super market(s) thrived and expanded for almost 100-years,
then imploded 16-years after being sold out to Odyssey Partners, a New York investment firm.

longjohn412

Notice how jerk offs in (Mis)Management don't even have the Common Decency to give their long time employees so much as a head up they aren't going to have a way to feed their families anymore?

A week or two heads up could have saved dozens of people a lot of suffering and pain ....

Nothing but Soulless Bags of Greed

snowman05

Their stick price fell to $.05/ share, and was there a long time. Stores were closing left and right. It wasn't like the handwriting wasn't on the wall little John. Hyvee was growing in this market and they were losing in other markets. What else did they need? You really slow!?

PainfullTruth

If the employees of Eagle didn't see the handwriting on the wall then they aren't very bright. Like stated by snowman, they downward slide of Eagles wasn't a sudden process. It happened over several months and the union had several meetings discussing their options with their union members. To say today that they were caught off guard is flat out wrong.

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