TUPELO – Odds are if you’ve shopped at the Kroger on West Main, you’ve seen Latoya Lloyd Sullivan, the senior co-manager of the store.
She’s normally in a button-down shirt and slacks more typically found in an office than in a grocery store. Maybe it’s a nod to the banking career the 26-year-old could have had after getting her finance degree from the University of Mississippi in three and a half years.
However, on any given day, Sullivan is immersed in the grocery store world. She’s just as likely to be helping customers and supervising cashiers as she is to be stocking merchandise.
“I try to be a role model and remember that one voice can make a difference so I smile and say hi to everyone,” she said.
She’s also quick to answer customers’ questions, always using a polite “yes, ma’am” or “no, sir” when needed.
During her 10-hour days, she is responsible for overseeing the store and making sure the daily conditions are up to par for Kroger.
Her goal: “To make sure the shopping experience is very pleasant.”
She supervises 125 employees, most of whom tower over her 5-foot-2-inch frame. She said her employees are “the best part of about my job” and she learns something from them every day.
And on days when they ask for her wisdom, she said she reflects on her upbringing.
“I try to counsel my employees like my mom or my grandmother would,” she said. “Even though you don’t like the answer, I’m still going to be honest with you.”
She said her age adds pressure to her job because she is relatively young and in a management position.
“Most people look at me like, ‘Oh, she’s young and she don’t know much,'” she said. “But then they get to know me and they see I’m like a typical old person.”
Being black also plays a factor; however, she said age is a bigger pressure on the job.
“That’s why I try to be the best I can be, the best role model for all ages and colors,” she said. “I try to earn respect. I don’t abuse my power.”
The 26-year-old is used to being different.
It started in high school when she became the first black female to play in South Panola’s band. She played the snare drum, an instrument she said most women can’t play.
Then the Pope native went to Ole Miss and worked two jobs in addition to playing in the band.
Yet, she graduated with a finance degree in three and a half years. She applied for banking jobs and said she wasn’t thrilled about the idea of sitting behind a desk. So, she went into Kroger’s management program about four years ago with no experience.
Eight people were in her class.
“Only two of us are left,” she said.
She cited goals and a strong work ethic as two of the elements for her success so far.
“Do your best,” she said. “Even if it means coming in an hour early or staying an hour later. Get the job done.”
She also has a tight-knit family, with an older sister in Memphis and two younger sisters at Northwest Community College. And when she gets the chance, she visits her mom in Oxford and plays drums for her church in Pope.
Sullivan also recently married her high school classmate, George Sullivan III, a member of 155th Brigade Combat team. She said, thankfully, he wasn’t deployed with the rest of the guardsmen last month because he is still in the ROTC program.
In five years, Sullivan hopes to be a store manager and eventually work her way up to Kroger’s corporate office. She also wants to go back to school for her master’s degree and then work her way up to vice president of a company.
Why vice president?
“Because I want to know everything about the company before I take the head job,” she said.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carlie Kollath/Daily Journal