As a store manager at the Brevard Ingles grocery store, Philip Jarrett wears many hats: babysitter of conflicted employees, peacemaker of angry customers, trainer of wild animals (fear not: not at the Brevard store) , buyer and inventory organizer, and juggler of staff and schedules.
But at the end of the day, he’s mostly a kind, hard-working, cheerful man who just likes to make people happy.
I recently caught up with him to chat about his life and work and everything.
What’s the weirdest excuse you’ve heard from an employee who’s late for work (or doesn’t show up)?
The funniest part was probably years ago when a middle-aged employee called because his horse had diarrhea. I thought, “I’ve heard it all now.”
What’s up with you’re still in aisle 8 in the spice section?
Most employees don’t like to work with spices because they are so small. I’ve always taken care of them and stocked them since I’ve been a store manager.
I like doing it.
No one can do it like me.
Plus, it makes me hang out around everyone as they walk down the aisle wondering where things are.
What is your worst incident with an angry customer?
I had several customers who insulted me because of other customers not wearing masks.
Do your employees ever prank you?
They try to scare me. Once they told me there were mice in the store near the bakery section. I was mortified because we never have mice.
When I arrived they had sprinkled black cupcake sugar sprinkles on the floor that looked like mouse poo and were pointing at them. One of them had a few nuggets in his hand and pretended to taste them. I was horrified. They thought it was pretty funny.
What is the most unusual problem you have encountered in a store?
When I was a store manager at a store in Asheville one morning a raccoon came through the front door. It jumped off a shelf in a grocery aisle and we had to grab it and remove it. We forced him into a box and released him outside.
What will happen to the old Kmart building next to Ingles?
Ingles owns this building and plans to tear it down and build us a new, larger store to move into. It’s cheaper to tear it down and rebuild it from scratch than to remodel it. After moving into this new store, they will demolish this building. The new building will be close to 100,000 square feet, whereas we are at 82,000 square feet here. It will probably be the same layout as the Mills River store, but bigger.
What’s the hardest part of managing a great team?
Trying to get employees to get along with so many different personalities.
What was your first job?
I was a bag boy in Ingles in 1974.
What was your most prized possession when you were a child?
A Zorro watch that my mother gave me. I got it for Christmas one year and wore it all the time. It was an old Timex watch. I would like to have it again, it would be worth the money. I watched it once, and it’s worth $200 or $300 today.
Who was your first celebrity crush growing up?
Did you have that famous poster of her?
Oh yes! I had the poster on my wall in my room (laughs). Like all the other guys my age.
What is the most beautiful thing that has happened to you in the last three months?
A complete stranger saved my life. I almost drowned at the beach and he saved me.
We rented a house on Rosemary Beach and the first day we went to the beach. I was going through the water to where one of (my girlfriend) Donna’s son and grandson was, and the riptide was just terrible.
It kept pushing me. And then the waves started crashing and hitting me on top of the head.
And then they started to drop me underwater. I kept doing what I was always told to do in a situation like this, but it didn’t do any good and I started to panic. I just threw my arms up and shouted, “Help me, help me, can you help me?” And there was a big black guy about 30 yards away and he heard me right away and came to help me. And, I’ll tell you, I don’t think I would have made it if he hadn’t been there. I really do not know. It was very scary.
Do you stay in contact with him?
I was so stunned at the time, but a little later I told Donna that I wish I could see him and thank him again for helping me. Fortunately, I spotted him and went to ask him, “Sir, were you the one helping me out there in the water earlier?” He said, “Yes sir, that was for sure. God bless you.” I said, “I firmly believe you were there for a reason. I would have drowned if you hadn’t been there. He was a really nice guy.
How long have you been dating your girlfriend?
We have been dating for eight years now.
Do you think it’s time to ask the question?
Oh, we’re getting married. It’s in the plans. Whenever I retire and can move to where she lives (Greenville), that’s when we will.
What song (or musical artist) takes you back to your high school days?
I was a big Kiss fan. Some people can hardly believe it. There was also a big poster of Kiss on the wall in my room, as well as one of Farrah Fawcett (laughs).
Did you imitate Gene Simmons, tongue out?
Of course, yeah. I stood up and acted like I was doing the guitar thing like him too.
Do you sometimes cook?
No, I don’t cook (apart from opening a box).
Have you ever witnessed a historical event in person?
I’ve been to two Super Bowls. I was a buyer in Ingles’ office at the time and the president of the company offered me tickets.
Of all the things you’ve been through, what are you most proud of having overcome?
I survived a divorce that I thought I would never recover from.
When was the last time you said no to someone?
I very rarely say no to someone. I try to make things work.
Do you sing in the shower?
Not in the shower, but in the back room, yes.
Share a favorite memory from your life:
Spending time hunting with my dad. He died when I was 18.
Do you know how to jump a stone on the water?
Yes, I learned at a young age on Lake Toxaway.
If you had to congratulate someone right now, who would it be?
My mother. She loves me no matter what.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
Hunting, fishing, golfing, spending time with the grandkids. And play pickleball now.
If you caught up with a friend, how about new in your life? Nothing new – doing the same thing for 48 years.
Ann Sharpsteen is a local Brevard real estate agent with Sterling Real Estate Partners and founder of the “I Love Brevard” blog. She can be reached at 828-606-2141 and online at ILoveBrevardblog.com.