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Darnell Allen

The very first store I worked was located at 11255 South Michigan, in the Roseland area on the far Southside of Chicago. My dad, Edgar Allen, had just come over to Osco from Walgreens where he had been a store manager and helped me get my first job. In those days there were no policies prohibiting relatives from working together and therefore I had neither the fortune nor misfortune of working “for” or “with” my dad.

Three months later, my dad was promoted to store manager at 8340 South Park in Chicago; which would become “Dr. Martin Luther King Drive” after Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968. There were two other individuals who worked at this store who went on to have long and prosperous careers with Osco. Terry Zaio, a fellow stock clerk and Hank Gust, just starting out as a pharmacist. To this day whenever Terry and I get together we greet each other with, “My brother from another mother!”

During the Vietnam War, the company was reluctant to hire anyone full time. I was working 39.5 hours; which was still considered part time, so I left Osco in July 1969 and went to work at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Chicago. However in January of 1970 I got married and with help from my dad I returned to Osco on February 16, 1970, this time as a full time sundry clerk on the West Side of Chicago. While working at this store, I had the opportunity to meet Tork Fuglestad, Chicago Region Vice President of Operations. I believe I made an impression on Tork, because he complimented me on a great looking “floor wax” set. Back in the day, we did not have planograms and you were able to be creative and do your own thing.

Over the next 17 years I had the opportunity to work “for” and “with” a lot of great people. But, there is one store manager who taught me more about the business and took the time to teach and coach me about managing people and running a business. That person is Byron Conant. He was extremely organized, knowledgeable and made you feel part of the team/family. I still remember the day when Byron invited me, my wife and son to his home for dinner. A few years later I had the opportunity to be his first assistant store manager when he was managing the South Holland store; which was one of the top earning stores in the region.

Because of individuals like Byron, Osco was like family. We had picnics; we took turns at hosting poker parties at each other homes and even formed a softball team. Working with guys like Paul Vladovich, Dan Zolnowski, Tony Welch, Bill Kennedy, Larry Botica and Roy Brown… these guys were family; along with so many others from the stores and at the 1818 office in Oak Brook. The relationships and friendships I established in the stores and office allowed me to stretch my boundaries and took me out of my comfort zone; which gave me the opportunities to take on increased responsibilities with the company inside and outside of Chicago. I am a firm believer that “no one does it entirely on their own”. In order to take on additional responsibilities and opportunities you will normally have a sponsor. Your sponsor could be someone who is openly assigned to you or it could be someone behind the scenes.

Some of my sponsors were district managers like Bob Howard, Joe Buron and Roger Carpenter. Bob was the person who nominated me to attend an educational program at Benedictine University, Roger promoted me to market manager and Joe was a great liaison when I was the chairperson for the Osco Minority Sponsorship Program.

At 1818, it was Pat Johnston, Dave Gillis, Larry Wahlstrom and Steve Mannschreck. Dave, Larry, Pat and Steve were both instrumental in promoting me to Chicagoland Human Resources Manager and District Manager.

A 40 plus year career with the same company is something that many in the younger generation will probably never attain. As mentioned earlier, no one does it entirely on their own and I personally want to thank all the hourly store associates, store management, staff and executive office associates whose hard work and patience made my 40 plus years at Osco an enjoyable ride; which allowed me the privilege, the pleasure and an honor to know, work and play with a great group of people!

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