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Southwest Spotlight: ‘We want Vicky:’ Herberger’s Zander celebrates 35 years at department store

Press Photo by Virginia Grantier They’d let her eat cake, if she would just leave the floor. Several times during an event celebrating her 35th work anniversary was interrupted as long-time Herberger’s sales associate Vicky Zander continued to tend to various customers’ needs.

A significant number of customers go into Herberger’s department store in Dickinson always knowing just what they want: They ask for the one, the only, Vicky Zander.

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“Pretty much every day someone comes in asking for Vicky,” said Sara Booke, Herberger’s selling supervisor.

Customers want Zander, a long-time sales associate, to help them. And co-workers say Zander helps her co-workers, too. “She helps keep the mood light,” Booke said.

Zander, who was honored at an anniversary party Thursday for her 35 years of service, has a unique laugh that often is heard across the store, said Rose Lenerville, assistant store manager and human resources manager.

“I try to think positive,” Zander, 57, of Dickinson, said Thursday. “I tell people to try to make yourself happy because you’re the only one who can do it.”

Her favorite color is yellow — the same as the Herberger’s signs for the yellow-dot sale — and so that’s what her co-workers wore on anniversary-party day instead of their usual professional black outfits. A couple co-workers commented that’s appropriate because she’s a “ray of sunshine.”

“She makes everyone’s morning without ever knowing it,” said Michael Figueroa, 25, a new Dickinson transplant from Florida who bought and wore a yellow tie to celebrate the day.

Zander will bring in her apple bars or donuts for co-workers and watches over a particular employee who is associated with Able Inc., an organization that helps employ and support intellectually and developmentally disabled people.

From the start Zander has worked at Herberger’s since it opened its doors at The Prairie Hills Mall. She was about 21 years old and Herberger’s sold such things as fabric, draperies and water beds, she said.

Zander tried being a manager for awhile, but missed the one-on-one relationships with the customers and so went back to being a sales associate, Booke said.

Zander said she started out her Herberger’s career as department head of the maternity and irregulars departments — irregulars meaning, “seconds,” merchandise with flaws, which the store doesn’t offer any longer. But those departments were too quiet, Zander said.

She later moved to the children’s department where she said it was never boring and one time helped organize a Buster Brown parade with kids in wagons, and live animals — children’s pet dogs, rabbits and goats.

The parade made a couple of laps around the store and “we cleaned up after,” Zander said and smiled.

Another cleaning time, much tougher, with gloves and trepidation, is when someone left human feces in a dressing room.

Zander has been through power outages — leading customers out and then staying in the store, navigating using emergency lighting. And she once spent an hour with about eight others in a dressing room during a tornado threat. She said they got to know each other well, chatting about various things.

“She’s the most wonderful person,” said customer Kathy Dutchuk, of Dickinson, who has shopped at Herberger’s for about 22 years. “She’s always there to help, always upbeat.”

She said there have been many times Zander helped her find things for special occasions, including a unique skirt Zander found that Dutchuk never would have thought of trying on that turned out to be perfect.

“She’s a great example of how a worker should be,” Dutchuk said.

And of how a person should be.

“She’s there for everybody,” she said.

She’s always there for you She was still working Thursday during the scheduled time for her anniversary party: She was guiding a customer who was looking for just the right thing.

Zander grabbed some summery tops for the woman to try, and then found another, telling her she had seen this one on another customer and that it was “just adorable.”

Zander said she has always been a person who — according to her parents and others who know her well — talks a lot.

When it was time to take pictures and cut the cake Thursday, Zander got busy talking, again — while leading a hobbling gray-haired customer on a slow trek to a rack of clothing that Zander thought might have just her size on it.

Zander, who’s currently assigned to sportswear, said she knows all of Herberger’s merchandise. If someone wants a dressy top, or a particular type of capri pants or a short skirt, she can take customers right to the spot. But if the spot doesn’t have the right thing, she goes on a mission, takes customers under her wing to find it, sometimes at another Herberger’s.

Along the way, Zander asks them where they’re from, if they’re visiting, if they’ve been to Medora and the Medora Musical. It’s a basic conversation, said Booke, expressing admiration about Zander’s desire to bond with her customers on that level.

When Booke was new to the retail world, and before she went into Herberger’s management training, it was Zander who taught her much of what she knows about merchandising, colorizing, making racks look better and so on, Booke said. Zander, after high school, went to school in Minneapolis for fashion merchandising.

“She always does things right, no shortcuts,” Booke said. “She’s the best I’ve ever seen with customer service.”

Sandi Ribb, 65, who was Zander’s manager before retiring two years ago, said Thursday that Zander is the epitome of a great salesperson.

“She goes above and beyond for her customers,” Dickinson resident Ribb said. “I couldn’t have done my job without out her. She’s always on top of things.”

And will be for the foreseeable future. No more parties needed, of the retirement type anyway, anytime soon. The forecast for Herberger’s is a lot more sunshine.