Toil instead of turkey

Some university students spend their Thanksgiving weekend at work


Photo by Courtney Kueppers

Noel Kroeplin, Just Local Food Cooperative employee, said the organic and natural grocery store is among local businesses that will not open its doors on Thanksgiving. However, they will be open until 9 p.m. Wednesday for last minute shoppers. Other grocery store chains and retail shops have some UW-Eau Claire students staying in town to work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Story by Courtney Kueppers, Managing Editor

Next week Americans will collectively eat hundreds of millions of pounds of turkey, the Dallas Cowboys will play the Philadelphia Eagles and hordes of people will frantically explore their favorite stores in search of the best deal.

Michelle Traynor is no stranger to spending Thanksgiving in Eau Claire. The senior environmental public health student grew up here. This year, however, her retail job, not family commitments, will keep her in town on turkey day.

From 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. next Thursday, Traynor will work the opening shift of Kohl’s Black Friday mayhem instead of joining her family, who has recently moved to the Rice Lake area. Traynor is just one of many UW-Eau Claire students sticking around for work instead of going home next week.

“I’m excited to get paid better but bummed I don’t get to go home,” Traynor said, noting Kohl’s employees get time and a half pay on the holiday. “My mom is pretty bummed. Kohl’s doesn’t seem to care about employees spending time with their families.”

For students who reside on campus, only Katharine Thomas, Chancellors and Towers Halls will remain open over Thanksgiving break. Residents of other dorms will need to leave by 6 p.m. Wednesday and can return after noon Sunday.

Diana Hager, university services associate in the housing department, said while some students do stick around, most go home.

“That’s why it constitutes only having three (dorms) open,” she said.

Resident assistants will be on duty in the three dorms throughout the weekend like usual, Hager said.

 Not all students sticking around to work next weekend will be dealing with the chaos of shoppers. Junior education major Eric Hagstrom is cutting his trip home short to return Friday for his coaching job at Memorial High School. Hagstrom’s team — the JV girl’s basketball squad — is practicing over the weekend.

While he’s disappointed he won’t be partaking in his family’s holiday traditions all weekend, he’s content with his alternate plans, Hagstrom said.

“Well, it’s my job so it’s my choice to have the job, so I can’t be too upset about it,” he said.

 Hagstrom also noted the quiet weekend in town will offer him a chance to get some homework done before the final stretch of the semester.

Senior Amanda Schmieder is spending her first Black Friday in Eau Claire. Schmieder will split her day between her two retail jobs at Shopko and Old Navy. From midnight to 9 a.m. she will be on crowd control duty at Old Navy; then a quick nap is on her agenda before heading across town to Shopko for a closing shift.

“That will be mostly cleaning up the tornado of a mess left behind,” Schmieder said of the end of her busy day.

Despite working two jobs, Schmieder’s holiday won’t be without a slice or two of her uncle’s pumpkin cheesecake, her thanksgiving favorite. She plans to go home Wednesday and spend some time with her family before returning for work.

“I’m kind of bummed,” she said of not being able to spend the entire weekend at home. “I don’t get to see my parents a lot, and it sucks on the holidays (retail workers) have to be here.”

David Engebretson, junior public relations major, worked last Thanksgiving at Festival Foods in Eau Claire. However, this year Engebretson is hoping to go home to hang out with his family. While he hasn’t seen his schedule for next week yet, Engebretson asked for the holiday off, he said, noting many of his co-workers did as well.

“Next week has one of the busiest days of the year for us,” he said. “It can get really competitive, making sure we have the best deals and enough people working on Wednesday to Sunday because so many people ask off.”

He noted the local grocery chains vie to have the best deals to offer the public, which can become stressful for the employees.

This time next week, Engebretson hopes to be sitting down to eat turkey with his family and not scanning turkeys in the checkout lane for last-minute shoppers.