Working to bag a state title

Two local grocery store baggers have proven they are very unlikely to leave customers with broken eggs or smashed bread.

Brad Severt and Josh Apple, baggers at the Wapakoneta Community Market on Defiance Street, recently swept a regional “best bagger” competition held at the local store and advanced to a state contest earlier this month at Ray’s Market, in Lima.

“The bagging competition is judged on bag building technique, weight distribution between bags, speed, and overall attitude and appearance,” said Eric Anderson, chief marketing officer for Fresh Encounter, of Findlay, explaining the contest.

Severt and Apple beat more than 20 of the area’s best grocery baggers when they won the regional competition hosted by Fresh Encounter. Each won $100 in cash and Wapakoneta Community Market Manager Rob Rettig won the coveted Best Bagger Manager’s Gold Coin and bragging rights for a year. While the two local teens didn’t fair as well at the state competition, there is always next year.

“It’s a fun deal,” Rettig said, mentioning Severt and Apple are good enough baggers that they could move on from the regional level to state again next year.

“Speed is very important, but they have to be a good bagger,” Rettig said. “They look at how they bag them, and speed, but the deciding factor can be proper bagging technique and the closeness of weight between bags.”

The baggers all packaged the same items into approximately three bags. While the items used to be bagged in paper for the competition, this year reusable sacks were used, making it a bit more difficult, especially for the local guys, who don’t use those a lot and instead do most of their bagging in paper or plastic, the store manager said.

Each store in the region has an internal competition among all its baggers to see who will move on further.

Apple said after nine months on the job and working eight to 12 hours a week, that he’s learned most of what he knows as he went along, but definitely something that was stressed from day one on the job was “don’t break the eggs.”

He said for the competition they were given a lot of heavy items — cans and jars — many of which could break easily.

“You have to not let the glass get together and keep the eggs and bread on top,” Apple said of tricks of the trade.

But he chuckled saying he never thought he would make it as far as he did competing against other baggers.

The 17-year-old Wapakoneta High School senior didn’t take the job to become known as one of the best baggers in the state, but he said he does it because he likes seeing all the customers every day and helping to make shopping easier for the older ones.

Severt, an 18-year-old senior at Wapakoneta High School has been working at the store for almost two years, and decided to apply there after learning it was where his mother and father had worked when they were in high school.

“I like seeing all the customers, talking to them,” Severt said of the job, which he works four or five hours weekly during the summer, when he also lifeguards, and 12 to 16 hours a week working during the school year.

He described the competition as “bagging as fast as you can 30 items into three bags and making sure the bags all weigh about the same.”

Severt said that is the trickiest part.

“It’s a lot to think about at one time,” Severt said, explaining how he put the heavy items on the bottom and the lighter products on top.

At least they were regular items that customers buy every day — coffee, eggs, bread — he said.

“I’m practicing every day I’m there so actually I should be getting better at it,” Severt said. “Some of the baggers are pretty good.”

Severt said he and Apple were two of the youngest ones in the competition, but after competing last year, he hoped he could do pretty well — moving quicker and doing a better job of getting the bags to weigh the same.

“I had no idea this even existed when I started the job and it’s a pretty big deal,” Severt said.