Connor Yoakum, 21, bags groceries at the Dorothy Lane Market store at Washington Square. He will compete at the Ohio Grocery Association’s best bagger competition Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO / HOLLY SHIVELY
Photo: Holly Shively
Photo: Holly Shively

DLM sends 4 students to highly competitive state bagger competition

Four area students are representing Dorothy Lane Market today at the most competitive grocery-bagging competition in the state.

This year 32 Ohio baggers will compete at the Ohio Grocer’s Association competition Tuesday at Baker’s IGA in Newcomerstown in east central Ohio. Shane Schaefer, the association’s chief operating officer, said she’s pretty sure that will be a record.

“I think it’s the draw that these kids need scholarship money,” she said.

But for Katie West and Connor Yoakum, two of the four Dorothy Lane competitors, it’s all about the camaraderie and thrill of competition.

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“I’m very excited for it,” said West, 19, a 2019 Kettering Fairmont graduate who works at the Oakwood store. “It’s just a fun event. It’s something different. Not many people know that there’s a state bagging competition or that that exists … people get really hyped about it.”

West has worked at DLM for almost three years and has competed at the state competition during all three. This will be Yoakum’s second year competing after nearly five years at the Washington Square DLM store.

“I feel more prepared. I think I know what’s expected from the judges,” Yoakam, the 21-year-old Wright State University student said. “I think I have as good of a shot as anyone else does. I think it would be awesome (to go to nationals).”

But Yoakam was nervous during the store competition because his sister Kira, who is going to be a senior at Centerville High School was also competing for the first time. Yoakam said he thinks she might be better than him.

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“It’s going to be really special bagging with her,” he said.

Carter Stanton, who has worked at the Washington Square Dorothy Lane throughout high school and college, will also compete at the state tournament.

To earn a chance to go to state, the Yoakams, West and Stanton had to compete against 30 participants, said Matt Bayne, customer service manager of the Washington Square store. At each level, the competitors are scored on weight distribution, with the smallest difference between bags giving the highest points; style, appearance and personality; the structure of the packing; and time.

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After the first round at DLM, six were brought back, and four earned their chance to compete at the state event. They’ve spent hours training, while on the clock, to build their skills and practice with the same list of items they’ll have to pack into reusable bags at the state competition, Bayne said.

The state winner gets a $1,000 check and a trip to cities like Las Vegas or San Diego for the national competition paid for by the Ohio Grocer Association, Schaefer said. If they come out on top at national, they’ll earn $10,000.

The National Grocer Association has been holding its bagger competition since 1987. But Ohio’s is even older, Shaefer said.

“The company has a commitment to its people by allowing us to do things likes this … it is an investment,” DLM’s Bayne said.

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