Wal-Mart employee celebrates 30-year anniversary

Photo by John Bryant
Patsy Nave-Hubbard recently celebrated 30 years of employment at Wal-Mart, where she is the manager of the shoe department. Nave-Hubbard looks forward to the opening of the new supercenter in January.

  By Julie Fann


  If you are a Carter Countian with a closet full of affordable Wal-Mart shoes, chances are you've talked to Patsy Nave-Hubbard, shoe department manager at the Elizabethton store for the past 27 years.
  "I've seen customers come in with a weakness for shoes," said Nave-Hubbard, who started working at Wal-Mart on Dec. 7, 1974 and recently celebrated 30 years of employment. "I've always liked my job, actually. I enjoy working with people, working with the public, and helping people find their needs in the shoes and stuff like that, especially at Christmas."
  In 1974, a department store named Big K's, located where Ingle's Market 397 currently stands on West Elk Avenue, hired Nave-Hubbard as a part-time employee. Three years later, she was made full time. Eventually, Wal-Mart bought out Big K stores in the area, and employees got to keep their seniority.
  "I've seen a lot of changes over the years. The one thing that stands out in my mind is meeting Sam Walton. I thought that was an honor, to meet the man that started this company years ago," she said.
  Visibly excited when discussing the occasion, Nave-Hubbard described Walton as "down-to-earth". "He was just a really nice man. Matter of fact, when he came here, I presented him with a shoe horn, and he said I was the first shoe department manager that had ever given him a shoe horn in the company. He was a very nice man. That's why this company has gone as far as it has."
  Born and raised in Elizabethton, Nave-Hubbard graduated from Happy Valley High School and the Tennessee Technology Center's Herman Robinson campus with a business degree. For the past three decades, she has been part of a service industry that has flourished while local manufacturing companies have all but disappeared.
  Nave-Hubbard has helped set up five other shoe departments at area Wal-Mart stores and turned down an offer to be a district manager for the retail chain. She currently oversees five other employees and looks forward to being responsible for more than that when the new supercenter opens on Jan. 26.
  "It will be different than being in a small town store. I'm looking forward to it, though," she said.
  Nave-Hubbard also attends Zion Baptist Church, where she plays the organ. Her husband of seven years, Gene Hubbard, also works at Wal-Mart in the receiving department. They have a cat named Sassey and a Siberian Husky, Buddy.
  Nave-Hubbard is the daughter of the late Jim and Lula Nave. She has three brothers and one sister.
  For her 30-year anniversary, she received a pin with six sapphires, a necklace with an angel, a bouquet of flowers, a cake and a plaque. She said full-time Wal-Mart employees receive annual raises as well as solid health insurance and retirement benefits.
  Donnie Wells, who has been manager of the local Wal-Mart for the past two years, said Nave-Hubbard is "worth her weight in gold."
  "Thirty years is a big accomplishment and she's still young; she's got 20 years left. She's a big asset, and I wouldn't trade her for anything," he said.
  Nave-Hubbard said she wanted to "thank God" for the time that she has been able to work in retail and have good health.
  "I thank God for my job. I just appreciate the Wal-Mart company and my store managers. We have a really good management crew. Everybody works together, and it goes back to Sam Walton. He always wanted his company to be a family-oriented company," she said.