A labor of love: Cox celebrates 35 years at Good2Go

By David Peck

If there ever was the prototypical “familiar face” at a business establishment, it’s Carolyn Cox, who this year is celebrating 35 years of greeting customers at a popular convenience store just west of Lovell.

Cox has worked for all three of the businesses at 1801 Highway 310: SaveWay, Red Eagle and Good2Go. She managed the store for many years but recently settled back in as a clerk. And she makes one thing perfectly clear. She loves her job.

Carolyn Parrish grew up in Oklahoma but completed high school in Thermopolis, where she met her husband, Kenneth Cox. The family moved over the years to various communities including Worland, Powell and Big Piney, then returned “home” to Byron in 1985 when Kenneth, a north Big Horn County native, took medical retirement. He died in 1996.

Having worked a number of retail jobs over the years, Cox was hired at SaveWay in 1986 by manager Charlotte Armstrong she said. SaveWay was owned by Bob and Ann Baird. When Armstrong left a few years later Cox was asked to work into a management role with Sandra Price, and the two shared the responsibility.

Just before Cox’s hiring, SaveWay was remodeled and expanded into a convenience store, and Cox was an essential employee following the conversion, Bob and Ann Baird’s son Bryan recalled.

“She was custom made for that role,” Bryan said. “She had perfect instincts for how to run it. She was indispensable. We were extremely lucky to have her around.

“She was also a good person to be around, extremely likable.”

SaveWay was purchased by the Hinze family around 1996 or ’97 and eventually became a Red Eagle store. Cox became the sole store manager with the sale to the Hinzes, who expanded the store to the west and added indoor restrooms and showers for truckers.

“I enjoy my job. I like what I do, and they asked for suggestions,” Cox said. “We brought in barbecue beef nachos, and they bought an auto-fry machine. We expanded the food and added Champ’s Chicken.”

The Bairds had their own small refinery for gasoline near Cowley, and when it closed the company purchased unbranded gas for a while, then later became an Exxon station.

“Red Eagle had their own fuel trucks and
did their own deliveries,” Cox said.

A liquor store was added a few years ago, and with the showers, truckers sometimes park adjacent to the store overnight or while resting.

Brad Hall and Associates purchased Red Eagle in 2013 and re-opened the store as Good2Go. Cox said only a few minor changes have been made since then.

Asked about the strength of Good2Go and earlier versions of the store, she quickly replied, “the awesome employees they’ve had working here and the customers who keep coming back.

“That’s what keeps us going,” she said.

Cox’s pride in the store shows through as she thinks about the store operation.

“We’re friendly, and people compliment us on how clean the store is,” she said. “We greet people. Even if you’re having a bad day, you greet them. They like us.

“We’re proud of our store. We work to keep it clean. It’s not just one of us, it’s the whole group.”

The train crash

One of the vivid memories Cox has from her time at the store was the morning of October 4, 1996, when a westbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe three-locomotive freight train pulling 47 cars collided with a parked switching train facing east on the tracks behind the store.

The impact carried the westbound train up and over the parked locomotive as two of the crew members rode it out and were thrown clear while a third jumped from the moving train. The crew
of the parked train, which had permission to be on the track by dispatchers,
was inside SaveWay having coffee when the collision took place.

Asked what the collision sounded like, Cox paused and said with a smile, “A train wreck. There was a great big old crash, earth-shattering. It really was bad. It was a sound like I hadn’t heard since living in Tornado Alley in Oklahoma.”

Cox said employees and the parked train crew members raced outside to assess the situation, and she came to realize how fortunate everyone was. The moving train had flipped up to the north side of the track, rather than the south, where it would have hit the store.

“It could have wiped the store out, but it didn’t,” she said.

Cox, who turned 74 in February, has no immediate plans to retire, saying, “I want to keep going a couple more years, as long as they’ll have me.”

There’s less stress now, too, since she stepped down as manager about five years ago after some heart surgery. (Rosalie Harris is the current manager.) She is enjoying simply being a clerk. She’s now greeting kids and grandkids of longtime customers.

“I like the people I meet every day, and I enjoy the work,” she said.

She even gets to work with her son Shawn, who has worked at the store for 25 years.

Company management is pleased, too, with their 35-year employee.

“We are proud to have good people like Carolyn at Good2Go Stores,” said Good2Go senior marketing manager Dusty Wilson-Johns. “She is the definition of our desire to bring a clean, friendly and fun atmosphere to every community we touch.

“Over the last 35 years, she has seen technology and life change in drastic ways, but she still has the same incredible smile and helpful attitude as she did on the day she started.”