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Willmar JCPenney manager retiring after 42 years with company

Briana Sanchez / Tribune JC Penney Salon manager Liz Dyrdal, left, and general manager Cheryl Randleman set up an appointment Thursday for customer Julie Zondervan at JC Penney in Willmar. Randleman spent a good portion of her 42 years in the salon. 1 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune JC Penney general manager Cheryl Randleman shows a photo of herself at 17 years old -- when she first started working for JC Penney -- hanging on her door at the store in Willmar. Randleman retired June 30 after 42 years with the department store company.2 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune JC Penney general manager Cheryl Randleman, left, and sales associate Kayla Unke put up balloon decorations Thursday ahead of a Fourth of July sale at JC Penney in Willmar. 3 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune JC Penney general manager Cheryl Randleman, center, talks to customers Lorraine Vander Veen, left, and Ardy Zondervan while they are checking out Thursday at JC Penney in Willmar. Randleman retired June 30 after 42 years with the department store company.4 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune JC Penney general manager Cheryl Randleman kept a photo of herself at age 17 -- when she began working for the department store -- hanging on her door at the Willmar store. She retired June 30 after 42 years with the company.5 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune JC Penney general manager Cheryl Randleman does her usual round of duties Thursday at JC Penney in Willmar. Randleman retired June 30 after 42 years with the department store company.6 / 6

WILLMAR — Believe it or not, Cheryl Randleman is going to miss working on Black Friday.

The general manager of the JCPenney store in Willmar's Kandi Mall retired at the end of June after 42 years with the company.

Randleman, 59, of Spicer, started working at her hometown store in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1975 as a high school senior. She worked for the company part-time while in college and entered its management program after graduation.

At first, Randleman said last week, she worked in a division that included toys, sporting goods, paint and hardware. All those lines were eventually phased out.

"Now we're evolving back to some of those things," she said. Appliances have returned to some stores, and toys are also coming back. The Willmar store is about to add a new toy department.

Randleman referred to the new or returning lines as "weatherproof" and said she thinks the company is moving in a good direction. Apparel is seasonal and can be dependent on weather — a cold spring suppresses sales of beachwear, for example. Appliances are purchased throughout the year.

Technology has brought many changes, she said. Buying once handled at individual stores is now centralized. The rise of JCP.com has had an impact on shopping patterns and retail spaces.

Customers and the clothing they choose has changed over time, she's noticed.

As office dress codes have relaxed, customers have moved away from career wear to business casual and casual clothing, she said. Younger customers may be more likely to order online and to buy activewear.

JCPenney has made the same move. "When I first started, I had to wear a suit," she said. "Now it's more business casual." The company's weekend dress code is denim with a red shirt.

Randleman said she will miss working with the team at the Willmar store and working with customers.

Another thing she'll miss is "the thrill of Black Friday," she said.

"It's a crazy day, but it's my favorite day to work," she said. "I liked the anticipation of the big sale. ... It's part of your DNA almost."

Even when the company began opening its stores on Thanksgiving Day, she said, she didn't mind that much. "It's hard to be away from your family," she said, but the store's team is like another family.

"I just have had an amazing experience with this group of associates," she said of the Willmar store's staff. "You're only as good as the people you're surrounded by."

Randleman worked at several stores in Iowa, and she met her husband, Chris, at the JCPenney in Iowa City. "That's one of the great things JCPenney did for me — it introduced me to my husband and best friend," she said. They will celebrate their 30th anniversary later this year.

Chris Randleman took early retirement from his job as a JCPenney district manager in 2011, when his wife was offered the general manager job in Willmar.

In 2000, when the Randlemans were working in the Quad Cities area in Iowa, the company transferred them to the Twin Cities to give both of them more career opportunities. While there, she worked in four stores and opened three brand new stores, in Coon Rapids, Maplewood and Eden Prairie.

"It was hard work, but it was an enriching opportunity," she said. "You have a whole new team of associates, and you teach them what JCPenney is all about. ... I still feel like the company lives the Golden Rule motto which we were founded on."

Randleman said she and her husband plan to continue living in Spicer. They have two adult children, a son in Litchfield and a daughter in Eden Prairie. Her mother and sister also live in Spicer.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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