A family was forged at Papermart

Ties Remain Strong Three Years Later

We are blessed to have numerous families during our lives. Of course, there’s our mother, father and siblings; our church family; and our circle of friends. You may not think of the people you work with as a family but, in most cases, they probably fit the criteria: sometimes you love them and other times they may even drive you a bit goofy. I was part of a special family for almost 18 years.

I worked at Papermart, a party supplies store in Scott, Pa., from August 1995 until the store closed in April 2014. It was my full-time job until 2001 when I switched to parttime after being hired at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Eighteen years. That’s a lot of helium-filled balloons, “Sesame Street” paper plates and Terrible Towels placed on the counter in front of my cash register. But I wouldn’t have given up one second of my time there.

It was a blast to work with people who all became my friends and, eventually, a closeknit family when we finally locked the front door for the last time. I don’t really miss inflating balloons, stocking shelves or trying to find a correct price in the register’s computer.

But one thing I do miss is being in charge of each year’s football pool — (run for entertainment purposes only) — and the camaraderie that developed from everyone keeping an eye on their records and the playful trash talk when someone’s team won or lost. I miss hearing stories and jokes, sharing Super Bowl and Stanley Cup championships, and all manner of good times and bad. I think everyone has a deep-seated need to belong and be around people who share the same beliefs and attitudes.

Sometimes this need manifests itself in destructive ways. It may not be the most important reason but family is one reason I go to church. I know I feel closer to my four grandparents every time I pray in my pew on Sunday morning. Through the miracles of social media, I am able to keep in touch with my Papermart family even though we have all grown older and gone onto new endeavors and challenges.

One souvenier I saved on the last day the store was open for business is a green plastic Papermart shopping basket, the kind I picked up hundreds of times over the years in the aisles. It may sit empty on a shelf at home but it holds a lot of cherished memories. n