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Nick Ferraro, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published October 28 2013

Beloved cashier brought smiles to the aisles in West St. Paul

ST. PAUL – Patsy Krech’s customers didn’t mind waiting. They wanted to go through her checkout line.

When they reached her, she’d welcome them with the same warm greeting:

“Hi, honey!”

It was one of the many things that made Krech the heart of Rainbow Foods in West St. Paul, an outgoing, colorful cashier well-liked by customers and co-workers during her 51 years in the grocery business.

They say the South Robert Street store is not the same without Krech, who retired in early August at age 89 – but only after she had a stroke at her West St. Paul home.

They ask, ‘Where’s the little gray-haired lady?’ ” Wendy Lewis, who works the customer service kiosk, said of customers. “People ask all the time how she’s doing. We let them know that she had a stroke.”

Krech’s family, friends, former co-workers and customers gathered last week at the Fireside Lounge, a few blocks from the store, for a belated retirement send-off. It was a surprise for Krech, who was brought there by her sister Carol Creamer.

“Oh ... how embarrassing,” Krech said as she entered the party room.

She fought back tears as she made her way around the room, greeting everyone.

“Oh, Jimmy ... I had no idea,” she said as she hugged her grandson Jimmy Bader.

Bader, like many family members, followed in his grandmother’s footsteps. He manages the dairy and frozen foods departments at Rainbow in Shoreview.

“To her, they weren’t customers ... they were her friends,” he said. “And she didn’t seem to let the cranky customers upset her.”

Curt Hendrickson, who has worked at the West St. Paul Rainbow for 20 years, called Krech the “store’s den mother.”

Customers purposely waited in her checkout line, creating a big backup, he said.

“I’d see her line of customers stretching nine deep and all the way down the frozen-foods aisle,” he said.

Meanwhile, other checkout lanes were wide open.

“She had that type of effect on people,” he said.

Carolyn Bingham and her husband, Kit, were two of those customers. After they moved from St. Paul to Mendota Heights in 1997, Carolyn “cased the store,” looking for a friendly face at the checkout line. She found Krech.

“I wanted a cashier who would know me, who would chat with me,” Bingham, 80, said. “I didn’t want someone who just rang up my stuff and sent me on my way. I tried her out and she was perfect. She is absolutely one in a million.”

At her celebration sendoff, Krech said she felt “very good” healthwise and is adjusting to retirement.

Work was “easy,” she said.

“Being nice to people is not hard,” she said. “I loved the people, because I believe that what you give, you get back tenfold.”