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2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Mara Merlin (Q&A)

Store-level Star

Mara Merlin

Store Manager
Save-On-Foods, Jagare


How did you get into the grocery business?

It’s actually a funny story! My mom demoed for Save-On-Foods 22 years ago. She loved the stores and thought very highly of the company. One day she came home and told me, “There’s a new Save-On-Foods opening soon” and that I should apply. Mom knows best and the rest is history.

What are your career highlights so far?

I have loved working at Save-On-Foods for 22 years. The highlights of my career have been my friendships and lasting memories from all of the stores I have worked at: Jagare, 50th Street Market, Lewis Estates, Strathcona, and 9th & Jasper. A specific achievement, though, would be winning the Customer Service Excellence Award in 2018. This internal award goes out to one store team every year with the highest customer service rankings in all service areas measured, including customer service and greet score. My team and I at Save-On-Foods 50th Street Market store won out of 170 stores, which was a huge achievement. My success at that store, including outstanding customer service, great team member engagement and strong financial results, also led to a big career step: being selected to open our newest Save-On-Foods at Jagare in Southwest Edmonton.

What is your proudest moment?

My proudest moment would have to be opening the new Jagare store as a store manager in October 2020. I loved building the team, getting to know everybody, and the challenge of making everything the best it could be. I knew my vision and it came to fruition. I am so proud of everyone’s efforts and what we continue to do for our community.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my career has been opening a new store in the middle of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has been top of mind with every step: from hiring, to welcoming our team, to running our business every day. My team and I have had to think creatively to draw attention to our store, as many community outreach activities have been restricted and traditional in-store excitement, such as demos, have been put on hold. I am so proud of the resilience of my team.

How would you describe your leadership style/philosophy?

My philosophy is “Work hard. Play hard.” I believe in working hard, giving it 110%, but also having fun doing so.

What do you like most about your job?

What I love most about my job is getting to know all of my team members. They are my family away from my family. We spend more time at work than at home, so I value making everyone feel special, appreciated and excited to come to work, every day.

Anything else you’d like to add?

All things are possible, if you believe!

Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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