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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

He’s been in the grocery business for 47 years. This was his last day on the job

Charlie Long, manager of the Ridley’s Family Market in Kuna, is retiring after 47 years in the grocery business.  (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman)
By Scott McIntosh Idaho Statesman

Charlie Long still remembers the days of having to hand-write in marker the prices on each individual grocery item in the store. Anything above a dollar, you used that gun that spit out the price label. Fridays were “price-changing days,” when you went through the store and changed each item’s price by hand.

Today, of course, all of that is automated — done with scanners and computers.

Charlie’s seen a lot of changes over the past 47 years in the grocery business, with nearly 30 of those years in Kuna.

Charlie’s last day on the job was Wednesday.

“I kind of feel relieved,” he told me in his office at Ridley’s Family Markets in Kuna, where he’s been the manager for the past five years. “This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and I’m ready to start this next chapter of my life.”

This 65-year-old retiree is a bit more than just a grocery store manager, though. He’s been a Kuna institution for the better part of the past 27 years.

We realized when we were talking Wednesday that he was the first and only manager of the Paul’s Market store in Kuna, having been the inaugural manager in 1997 and still the manager when Paul’s was sold to Albertsons in 2016.

During his tenure, he’s been an immeasurable asset to the community. He’s served on the Kuna Chamber board, including as president, and for years he organized the rubber duck race down Indian Creek, raising an estimated $100,000 for the chamber over the years. He’s donated to Kuna Little League, the school district, the Lions Club and just about every nonprofit in Kuna.

He was named the grand marshal of the Kuna Days parade and was asked to speak at the mayor’s prayer breakfast in 2014.

On Tuesday, the city of Kuna honored Charlie with the Outstanding Citizen Achievement award, a fitting honor for someone who’s given so much to the town.

His employees on Wednesday threw a small farewell ceremony for him at the store.

“I can’t (overstate) how much this man has done for Kuna,” Karl Abel, longtime Kuna resident and Ridley’s employee, said during the ceremony. “Anyone who’s lived in Kuna long enough has seen this man everywhere. I just want to say how much we appreciate this man. He’s a Kuna staple.”

Charlie’s grocery journey

After graduating from Nampa Christian School in 1977, Charlie moved to Federal Way, Washington, where he started his grocery career at Johnny’s Food Store. He then worked at Maple Valley Food Store, before taking a one-year break to go to Judson Baptist College in Oregon.

But he said he got homesick, so he came back to Nampa, where he went to work for Albertsons at a few different stores.

He first started at Paul’s Market in Caldwell, then Mountain Home before becoming the manager of the new Paul’s store in Kuna in 1997. Kuna’s population was just 3,000, a tenth of what it is today.

He saw big changes, including a gas station connected to the store, automated gas pumps and the ever-popular Paul’s loyalty card, which, at the time, others in the grocery business thought would never last.

When Albertsons bought out Paul’s in 2016, Charlie worked at the old Broadway store for nine months before making his way back to Kuna as assistant manager at the Albertsons there in 2017.

“Charlie’s Back!” read the headline in the Kuna Melba News at the time.

Eventually, he became the manager of the Kuna Ridley’s store.

“I was never bored with the grocery business,” said Charlie, who originally wanted to be a teacher and a basketball coach. “There’s always something that keeps you going. There’s never a dull moment.”

Changing of seasons, changing of displays, back-to-school sales and holidays always meant something was around the corner. As manager of the store, he got to meet just about everyone in town and important people in the Treasure Valley, especially people at Boise State University.

Community support

For me and my wife, when we owned the Kuna Melba News, he allowed us to set up a table inside his store and sell subscriptions, a huge boon for a couple of young kids trying to make a go of the business. He kept a weekly ad in the paper (even though he probably wasn’t supposed to). When I was a Cub Scout den leader, he let us sell popcorn outside his store.

The first conversation I ever had with Charlie was in 2006 after I wrote a story about the possibility of a big-box store coming to the southwest corner of Deer Flat and Meridian roads, promising competition to the Paul’s store. Charlie called me up, kind of upset that I had written about it, saying it wasn’t going to be a good thing for Kuna.

It’s ironic, because the site that I was writing about is where the Ridley’s stands today.

For six years, I got to see Charlie just about every Friday night during football season, as both of us walked the sidelines. He kept stats for the team, and I was shooting photos and taking notes for a story.

But one of my fondest memories of Charlie came from the dead of winter one year. Charlie had a ladder set up precariously in the back of his pickup truck, stringing Christmas lights in the Paul’s parking lot.

Our son, who was probably 4 or 5 years old at the time, said, “Don’t fall off your ladder, Charlie.”


In retirement, Charlie said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Kay; visiting family; traveling; exploring more of Idaho; and fishing. He said his work schedule never gave him a lot of free time.

Charlie said he’s also going to get back to running. He used to be an avid runner and has completed the Race to Robie five times.

I suppose it’s going to be hard to break some old habits.

When we made our way to the dairy section Wednesday to take some photos, Charlie couldn’t help but turn some of the yogurt containers around, “facing” them, as they say in the business.

Customers stopped by to greet him and wish him well.

“I think he should stick around longer,” joked Cliff Royer, a longtime Kuna resident who stopped by the store Wednesday to say goodbye to Charlie. “He’s been a great supporter of the community, and he’s always been a friendly face and a smiling face when you come in to the store.”

When I asked Charlie what he’s going to miss the most, he answered quickly.

“Just the people,” he said.

The people of Kuna are going to miss him, too.