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Gem of the Week: The king of the produce aisle for 3 decades

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Warren, MN (WDAZ-TV)

Like a celebrity James Liedberg is chauffeured to work.

“His personality, he's very outgoing, has a sense of humor,” said Jim Ranstrom, the manager of Dale’s Foods.

Time for another shift at Dale's Foods in Warren.

It's a job James has held for the past 30 years.

“I was a little hesitant at first how much training he would need,” recalled Ranstrom.

James Liedberg has Down Syndrome. He was placed at the grocery store in 1987 through the Occupational Development Center in town.

“He's been given a bigger work load, we started him with simple jobs not knowing what he is capable of, we were pleasantly surprised how he came along and was able to handle different duties,” explained Ranstrom.

Those duties usually place him in the produce section, Aisle 1. 

“I would hire him in my house if I had a chance,” said Victor Sweeney, a long-time customer.

Today's task, peeling onions. 

“Why do you like to work?” asked reporter Matt Henson.

“You make money,” replied Liedberg.

James may say he does it for the money, but many will argue the real reason is the comradery.

“Special attention to the customers, instead of the customer going up and down the aisle without any contact with the employees, his smile and willingness to come up and approach a customer, he may walk half an aisle to a customer,” explained Ranstrom.

James was recently honored for his decades of commitment to the grocery store and its customers. Dozens attended. 

“He's honestly the pillar of our community to tell you the truth. Always a smile, I don’t know if I've ever seen him have a bad day,” said Sweeney.

But his days at Dale's are winding down.

“Any plans on retiring?” asked Henson.

“Pretty soon August,” he replied.

 “What are you going to do in retirement…stay at home, enjoy life, relax?” asked Henson.

“Yeah relax!” James replied.

While Ranstrom will probably be able to find another producer worker, he says he'll never be able to replace James.          

“Sometimes we need an example in life and sometimes a person like Jim comes along and can actually show you what you really need to put into perspective,” said Ranstrom.