TUPELO – For nearly 60 years, Todd’s has been a familiar name in the grocery business. And for more than half of that time, Bob Knight has been a part of it.
Recently, Knight celebrated 30 years of ownership of the popular store on West Main Street.
“Danny Smith and I worked for Mr. Todd in the late ’70s, and we bought the store from the Todds in 1980,” said current owner Bob Knight, reflecting on the beginning of his three decades of ownership. “And it was Jimmy and Frances Todd who bought the business from Joe Sharp in 1952.”
When Knight and Smith were running Todd’s Big Star, the store covered a mere 7,000 square feet. When they opened at the store’s current location on West Main Street in 1991, the store had more than doubled, to 17,000 square feet.
“We had about 20 employees back then,” Knight said. “Now we’re up to about 75.”
Knight took over full ownership of Todd’s in 2004. At about the same time, his son Clay joined the business.
“It’s his one day,” said Bob. “ He can do it all. He knows the business well.”
The same could be said of Bob, who modestly insists that he’s a meat cutter at heart and relies on a “great set of employees” to help run the store.
Some employees have been at Todd’s as long as Knight, if not longer. They and other long-time staffers are the key people who keep the business running smoothly, Knight said.
“Jerry Steffens, our market manager, started before I got the store,” Knight said. “Our store manager, Joey Cole, has been here 20-plus years. Our front-end manager, B.J. White, has been here more than 20-plus years. We have cashiers who have been here 15 years or more. They know our customers by name, and our customers know them. We have a lot of familiar faces around here.”
Knight has been in the grocery business for as long as he can remember.
He started sacking groceries at Page’s Supermarket in 1963. After a three-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, he started going to college at Mississippi State. He also worked part-time at Kroger while he was a student.
In 1977, he began working at Todd’s.
“So much has changed over the years,” he said. “I guess the biggest is that we used to do everything by hand, and so much is automated now. And the meat business has changed, too. We used to cut beef by hand, whole sides of beef, but hardly anyone can do that now.”
At age 62, Knight said he has “at least 20 more years left in me.” Retirement isn’t anywhere in his plans.
“My wife, Nancy, and I still go to a lot of ball games,” he said. “And we like to do a little traveling. But I don’t like to do a whole lot, while she does.”
Knight looks forward to passing the business on to Clay one day, and is sure he’ll carry on the tradition of Todd’s being “a very hands-on store.”
And he’s sure that the store has at least another 30 years.
“As long as we treat the customers right, we’ll always be here,” Knight said.
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal