UNSUNG HEROES ‘Essential’ store clerk: Itza Palmeros

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Itza Palmeros, 18, works at United Grocery Outlet; she's experienced something historic while working there during the coronavirus. With mask in tow, this college student vows she's not afraid to serve on the front lines. It's something she says she'll certainly never forget.
T-G Photos by Dawn Hankins

Eighteen-year-old Itza Palmeros says working as a cashier and stocker at United Grocery Outlet (UGO) this spring in the middle of COVID-19 has been hectic, to say the least. While the toilet paper hoarding has been an interesting observation, Itza says it’s people’s attitudes at checkout which have been, well, kind of odd.

“It’s the way people behave,” she says. “People want us to keep our hands off their food, even though we’re the ones who put it up.”

Yet, her young heart has empathy for families who are struggling right now to make ends meet. UGO managers stated recently how they feel blessed to have cashiers like Itza who reach out with extra customer service, particularly since many customers may be struggling since the onset of COVID-19 in this county.

Itza with her mask.
T-G Photo by Dawn Hankins

Itza’s thankful in return to her employer that she’s been able to work and has remained healthy while on the job. While putting on her face mask, which UGO requires of employees, she says thankfully she’s still getting 30 to 35 hours of employment a week.

“I’ve been here two years. This is my the only place of employment. I know it like the back of my hand.”

Though this pandemic is something that Itza did not of course anticipate in her young life, she’s making the best of the situation as an “essential worker.” Grocery markets like UGO were deemed necessary to public service by Gov. Bill Lee when the coronavirus tipped off in March.

When she’s not ringing up bargains at the store on Lane Parkway, Itza is studying criminal justice through Motlow Community College in Moore County. She’s keeping her options open, but says as a future career, she’s leaning toward law school.

“I’m thinking I might want to be a lawyer.”

A life-long Bedford County resident, the teen currently resides in Shelbyville with her mother. Itza’s completing online classes at home, she says, since Motlow had to close its doors, due to the pandemic.

“I’ll be back in the fall.”

Itza, like many students her age, has to work to help make ends meet while she’s in college. Thankfully, she observes, there’s much to do at UGO, which is a closeout grocery merchant buying and selling almost anything found in a supermarket.

This young unsung hero says contrary to some, she doesn’t fear her job or consider it ‘crazy’ to be on the front lines at an essential food store during a pandemic.

“I don’t really see it that way. I’m thankful I have a job.”