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Friendly face at Hugo's celebrates retirement with customers after 41 years in grocery business

Her name tag attached to her navy blue cardigan says "Hi! I'm Yvonne," but regular customers of the Hugo's Family Marketplace on South 32nd Street have known Yvonne Welsh's name for years.

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Don Fisk center, grabs a hug from Yvonne Welsh, middle facing front, as he and his wife Sue, left, visit during Welsh's retirement party at Hugo's on 32nd Avenue on Thursday. Don and Sue have known Welsh for 30 years following her to Hugos as customers from the old Warehouse Foods. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

Her name tag attached to her navy blue cardigan says "Hi! I'm Yvonne," but regular customers of the Hugo's Family Marketplace on South 32nd Street have known Yvonne Welsh's name for years.

After 24 years at Hugo's in Grand Forks, and more than 41 years overall in the grocery business, Welsh celebrated her last day of work Thursday.

A retirement party was held for her at the front of the store, with marble cake and punch laid out for her loyal customers.

Seemingly every person through the door had a smile, hug and kind words for Welsh before grabbing a piece of cake and continuing with their grocery shopping.

Welsh said it was a bittersweet day for her.

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"I loved my job and I'm going to miss my customers," Welsh said, choking up on the last word.

For her, the word "customers" is used lightly. Many are friends and have been for years.

"After 41 years, you meet a few people," she joked.

Welsh started her career at Warehouse Market, formerly located at South Washington Street and 24th Avenue South, before it became a Food Bonanza grocery store.

When that closed in 1992, Welsh moved over to Hugo's on 32nd Street, bringing several loyal customers with her.

Welsh's nextdoor neighbor of more than 30 years, Russ LaDouceur, made sure to do his grocery shopping Thursday afternoon so that he could wish his friend well.

"She's a hardworking girl, always out working in her yard or taking care of people here," he said.

David M. Davidson, who was jokingly giving Welsh a hard time, said Welsh's sister used to babysit his children. They've known each other for years.

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"I'm glad for her," Davidson said. "She's earned it."

Welsh joked she's going to do nothing for a while, but she said she plans to keep quite busy. Friends have approached her to volunteer at different places, including Sharon Lutheran Church, where she attends services.

She also has four grandchildren she'd like to pick up from school some days while helping take care of her aging mother.

She's going to miss her customers, she said, and her co-workers, who surprised her with a party yesterday as well.

"It's been a good 41 years."

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Linda Sulland (left) dishes up more cake for Hugo's customers and Yvonne Welsh's sister, Denise Bergeron (right) fills up more punch at Yvonne Welsh's retirement party Thursday afternoon. Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald

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