SUMITON – Anyone who’s shopped at the Sumiton Walmart in the last 19 years has most likely been greeted by Marlene Young.
She started working there as a greeter just after the store opened for business in 1998. Even though her Walmart badge says Marlene, children and others who shop there know her as the Tiara Lady. That’s because she wears a tiara every day.
“Wearing the tiara started out as a joke. I told everybody that I was the queen of the grocery store,” Young said.
Everybody loved having a queen at Walmart.
“Even management liked the idea,” Young said. This was 17 years ago, and today she has more than 30 tiaras. She bought a few, but most of them were given to her by friends who shop at the Sumiton Walmart.
Young enjoys her job. “I love being with people. The people who come through the front door aren’t just my customers but my friends,” Young said. Her friends share news about newborns, weddings, health problems, deaths and a few are depressed. “Sometimes a hug is all it takes to bring them out of it for a while,” she said.
She’s made a lot of friends here. “I can’t go anywhere without seeing someone I met at the store,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”
The Tiara Lady starts her day out early. She gets up at 4 a.m. to get ready and to pick out a tiara for the day. She’s in the store by 6:15 a.m., and at the front door greeting customers at 7 a.m. Her main job is making people feel welcome at Walmart but she also makes labels for those exchanging items or returning them for refunds.
One of the cutest things that has happened during her tenure at Walmart was one day when she went to use the restroom. A woman was standing at the sink helping her little girl wash her hands.
“I heard the little girl whisper to her mother, 'Mama, there’s a princess on the potty,'” Young said. “This was the cutest thing I’d ever heard,” she said.
Young moved to here from Tennessee, where she worked for Eastman Kodak as a secretary. When her husband Don’s job brought him to Alabama, she applied for a job at the Sumiton Walmart and started the following February.
Young is past retirement age but she’ll probably hold on to the tiaras for a while longer. “I plan to work until I can’t,” she said.