Swanson’s Employees Brace For Change

State staff assist Swanson’s employees who will lose their jobs Friday. (Photo By Ben Matheson, KYUK-Bethel)
State staff assist Swanson’s employees who will lose their jobs Friday. (Photo By Ben Matheson, KYUK-Bethel)

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Following the announcement that Swanson’s grocery store would be closing, a rapid response team from the Alaska Department of Labor was dispatched to Bethel Wednesday.

The specialists were sent to assist the 80 employees from Swanson’s grocery store who will lose their jobs when the store closes Friday.

Eileen Henrikson is manager at the YK Delta Jobs Center.

“Hopefully, we’re able to work with employees and be able to find them jobs relatively quickly or at least get them into programs, basically whatever they want to do, we’re here to help them how we can,” said Henrikson.

The store, run by Omni Enterprises, is closing after less than a year in a new building owned by the Bethel Native Corporation. The company is liquidating inventory with a half off sale and customers are still waiting in long lines to buy groceries. Amid the busy week for employees, the team set up shop in the break room and met with small groups. Henrikson says she plans to connect local businesses with the large, newly unemployed group of workers.

Shoppers line up Wednesday to buy half-off groceries before the store closes. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.
“We’re definitely going to be helping them with resumes, job searching, job placement, whatever we can to help them with. I’m looking to hold an open house on Monday at the jobs center. We’ll have local businesses, recruiters, and people from training programs that can give them other options, said Henrikson.

Joe Nevik worked full-time in the electronics department. He was disappointed to hear of the loss, but is now beginning to apply for jobs. After meeting with the team, he was optimistic about new opportunities.

“I thought about getting a CDL, go to training and get a certificate, so I could find a better job,” said Nevik.

Joe Nevik worked in the electronics department. He is looking into getting a CDL certification. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.
Outgoing cashier manager Monica Yako is stressed because she has six kids at home and two days left of work. She spoke with the specialists about getting her GED. She says she will likely have to move out of Bethel and that brings up a lot of emotion.

“I liked being a cashier, I liked working in the store, I’ve been doing it so long. But it’s time to move forward and find something else to do.”

As for her future plans, she says she wants to become a nurse. Anna Tom worked in the clothing department. Her plan was more nebulous.

“A higher power will lead the way,” said Tom. “That’s my goal.”

The rapid response team only had one day scheduled in Bethel. The YK Delta Job Center, however, plans to continue to assist the laid off employees.