Two Cooke's employees get top awards

By LARRY C. BOWERS Staff Writer
Posted 4/24/18

Associated Wholesale Grocers recently announced award winners in merchandising for 2017, and two Cooke's Food Store employees took top prizes in the competition. Cleveland native Bianca Harris, …

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Two Cooke's employees get top awards

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Associated Wholesale Grocers recently announced award winners in merchandising for 2017, and two Cooke's Food Store employees took top prizes in the competition. 

Cleveland native Bianca Harris, floral specialist for Cooke's main store on Keith Street in, was the winner of this year's Excellence in Floral Design.

The winner of the merchandizing Brands competition was Benjie Widener, manager of Cooke's Fresh n' Low store in Chatsworth, Ga.

AWG representatives recently presented championship trophies to the two at their respective stored. 

Harris' award was for her commitment to quality, creative design, and outstanding  service.

Widener won his honor for the commitment of his team to serving the store's customers.

Harris grew up in Cleveland, graduating from Bradley Central High School in 1996. She then attended graphic design school in Charlotte, N.C.

After graduation, she returned to Cleveland and was an apprentice in basic design under the late Ron Logan at his Cleveland flower shop. She then worked at Flowers and Things for about four years.

Harris joined Cooke's Food Stores in 2012.

"What I have here is a flower shop, but it's located in a grocery store," she said. Harris added that she enjoys her work and her association with Cooke's "I love it here, and we're one big family," she said.

The award and trophy are a prelude to a very special time in Harris' life. She and her fiance, Ben Goss, will be going to Florida next week to get married on the beach. According to Harris, the two were high school sweethearts and are best friends.

Also residing in Cleveland are her father and stepmother, Tom and Shirlee Harris; her mother and stepfather, Karen and Wayne Wilhelm; sister, Kelley Ford; half-brother, Tanner Harris; and half-sister Misty Bennett.

She said she is proud of the award, adding that it acknowledges the amount of extra business she has brought to Cooke's Keith Street store.

Several other Cooke's employees have won AWG merchandizing awards in the past, on both the regional and national level.

Widener won his award for accomplishments at the Chatsworth store, but he received some of his preliminary training in Cleveland. He was assistant manager under Cleveland store Manager Keith Scott for four years, before going to Chatsworth.

Widener grew up in the Fort Oglethorpe/Rossville, Georgia, area, and was in the first graduating class at Ridgeland High School in 1990. After graduation, he went right into the grocery business.

"This is a huge honor, and I've really enjoyed working for the Cooke family, and with other Cooke's employees," he said. 

He has four children, Joseph, Riley, Whitney and Tori, ranging in age from 9 to 23. He was presented his trophy by District Manager Robbie Dillard, in the lobby of the Chatsworth store.

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