OTTAWA — As he stopped into Kohls Market in Ottawa recently, Fred Hovest was greeted with many saying “welcome back” and smiles from co-workers. He had been off a few days for medical reasons, and it was obvious he had been missed.
Hovest didn’t hesitate to smile back and joke with everyone, including customers, as he walked a few aisles of the store. It’s his smile and friendly demeanor that make Hovest an important part of Kohls Market.
Hovest has worked at Kohls Market for more than 30 years.
“I started between my sophomore and junior year in a work-study program through the school,” Hovest said. He said he was working for Norman Kohls at the time.
“I started out as a stock boy,” Hovest said.
Since then he has taken on many new responsibilities including serving as the store’s frozen food manager, night manager one time a week, and also provides customer service relations in the store.
“Serving as the frozen food manager involves a lot of responsibility and hours,” owner Mark Kohls said. In addition to unloading the frozen food deliveries twice a week, Hovest also has to determine pricing for the goods.
“That takes a lot of time,” Kohls said. He has been doing this duty for nearly 20 years.
“I enjoy it,” Hovest said. “Of course, I enjoy everything I do at the store.”
Kohls said Hovest always has a smile on his face for the customers and co-workers.
“He can be having a really stressful day overseeing frozen food deliveries needing to be unloaded or put on the shelves, but he will be called up front for customer service and still have a smile on his face. It’s really a compliment to his friendliness that he can do this during stressful times,” Kohls said.
“It’s hard sometimes,” Hovest admitted. “But it is important.”
When serving as the night manager Hovest is responsible for making decisions regarding customer questions and dealing with other customer relation issues.
“If I don’t have an answer, I ask them to come back the next day,” Hovest said.
Hovest doesn’t mind helping customers take groceries to their car, even when it’s cold and icy.
“I just watch my step and dress for the weather,” he said. “It’s more difficult on those days when it is hot and humid outside.”
Kohls said being a small operation, all the employees share duties.
“Fred steps in helps wherever he is needed,” Kohls said. “He is dedicated. It’s hard to find an employee that will treat a business like it is his own, but Fred does that. He rarely misses a day of work.”
Kohls said Hovest always checks to make sure the cooler motors are working on holidays.
“I like dealing with the customers the best,” Hovest said. “I get to meet a lot of interesting people. I like to tell people I don’t work for Kohls. I say I work for KFF, Kohls Fine Foods.”
Fred Hovest, Mark Kohls