When George King hangs up his apron later today at the Manning Piggly Wiggly, it will be for the final time.
After 45 years with the store, King is retiring.
"I wanted to go out before I'm 70 years old, and I've only got a month left," said King, who serves as the store's meat market manager. "So, Thursday is my last day."
King began his work in the grocery industry at a Sav-Way in Maryland. He had just completed a turn in the military, and he and his wife settled up north for a while. The pair eventually had a son while living there.
"We decided we didn't want to raise our children in the city, so we came back home to Manning," said King.
King ran the market for a grocery store in Sumter before finally joining the Manning Piggly Wiggly in 1972. He was 24 at the time.
“I love talking to the people and getting to know them,” King said. “They remember you and details about your life. They ask how your wife and kids and grandkids are doing.”
King said aside from chit-chat, his customers have mostly approached him throughout the years for recommendations.
“They want to know about the cut of meat and the tenderness mostly,” he said. “I’ve gotten to where I can just about look and tell that, so they depend on that.”
King said it’s always been nice to be able to help customers when they need him or any of his staff.
“It makes me feel good when they come to me and ask what I would prefer,” he said. “I love it here, and that’s why I’ve stayed so long. But now, it's time for me to retire."
King won't be sitting at home, he said. He will still work for the company as a temporary fill-in at other stores.
"I will relieve market managers, helping out when they have days off or vacation," he said. "Wherever there's a problem, that's where I'll go."
King said he's seen dramatic changes in the industry during his time with the store.
"Years ago, all our meat, like beef, came in completely unprocessed, and we had to break it down into quarters ourselves, then hang it in the cooler after we unloaded the trucks," he said. "Now, it comes already broken down for us. All we have to do is pick up the piece of meat we want from the cooler and slice it and put it in the case. That's a big change."
King is married to Mary King, and the couple has three children and seven grandchildren.
“Two boys and a girl for kids, and six grandsons and one granddaughter,” King said.