When you get in the check-out line at Bloomingfoods to purchase your morning coffee or after-dinner snack, take a minute to say hello to your cashier. It just might result in an interesting conversation like this one I had with William Ndama, a cashier from Liberia who started working at the Near West Side in late December.
What brought you to Bloomingfoods?
I like Bloomingfoods and I eat here all the time. Cathleen Craig wanted me to work here,” William said. Craig, the manager of the Near West Side’s customer service department, got to know Ndama at the Circle K gas station at the intersection of Kirkwood and Rogers, where he used to work.
“I know a lot of people who came here from my old job; working at a gas station, you know everybody.”
What’s the best thing about working at Bloomingfoods?
“Nice people and the chump,” meaning food that’s available to employees for free because it’s damaged, expired, or overripe. Ndama has been getting a lot of fresh produce that way, and he’s enjoying it.
What have you learned during your time at Bloomingfoods?
“I’ve learned how to eat healthier. I haven’t set foot in a fast food restaurant since I started working here,” he said. He has always enjoyed organic food but found it too expensive; now with access to chump produce and an employee discount it’s within reach again.
Where are you from?
“I’m from Liberia; I moved to Indy with my family when I was seven,” Ndama said, on account of Liberia’s civil war. Today, his parents are back in Liberia working as social workers (and his father is a part-time professor). His brother and older sister live in Minnesota, and his younger sister is finishing high school in Indianapolis. Ndama came to Bloomington for college; he’s working on his B.A. in Political Science at IU and plans to graduate next May.
What are your plans for the future?
“My aspiration is to go back to Liberia; after graduation I’m going to apply for jobs,” with the government and NGOs, Ndama said.
“I really want to help rebuild Liberia,” he added.
Do many customers of your customers know your background?
“I don’t think a lot of people know I’m from Liberia,” but some ask him if he’s from Africa because of his facial structure, he said.
What is your favorite food from Bloomingfoods?
“Deli sandwiches- the Jalapeno Club Melt—and any meat they have on the hot bar; chicken, beef, it’s all good,” he said.
What’s the most expensive salad you’ve had?
“$20. I swear the chicken breasts weigh two pounds each,” he said.
How does your ideal customer act?
“Say hi, be nice, be kind, be polite… don’t talk on your phone!”
William: What are you going to call this article?
Me: What do you want me to call it?
Tyann, front end manager: How about, The Most Awesome Guy Ever?
William: Yeah. Or Will-Yum, The Fresh Prince of Bloomingfoods.
Me: I’ll see what I can do.