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Cracker Barrel honors Meridian managers

By Staff
MANAGERS HONORED Carrie Wilder, left, and Kerry J. Putnam stand in front of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in Meridian. Putnam was recently named district manager of the year; Wilder was recently named district retail manager of the year. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By William F. West / community editor
Oct. 12, 2002
The management team of Meridian's Cracker Barrel Old Country Store have been recognized by their peers with first-place awards.
Kerry J. Putnam won district manager of the year and Carrie Wilder won district retail manager of the year. And store workers said they are pleased their bosses received the high honors.
Colleen Willis, a hostess at the restaurant, said she is proud of Putnam and Wilder. Said Willis: "They have worked so hard."
Putnam and Wilder received the awards at the company's annual conventions in Florida for restaurant and store managers. The store also received other first place awards for efficiency and sales.
The store, at 609 U.S. 11 &80, is part of what is called the Mississippi District an area that includes Cracker Barrel stores in western, central and eastern Mississippi, mainly along Interstate 20.
Company roots
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store was established in 1969 in Lebanon, Tenn.; the company has 458 stores in 41 states.
Each store is modeled after a 1900, turn-of-the-century country store, featuring old photographs, antiques, memorabilia and a fireplace in the adjoining dining room.
Putnam, 36, said the Meridian Cracker Barrel's numerous awards resulted from efforts to reverse what had been the store's bad reputation which he learned about after completing his employee training at another store four years ago.
When he told them Meridian, the response was, "Oh, the store from hell."
Putnam said he discovered that the Meridian store had the wrong leadership and that the workers had the wrong attitude.
After being named manager 18 months ago, he worked toward turning the store around. Putnam had plenty of life and work experiences to help meet the challenges.
Putnam's story
A native of Athol, Mass., Putnam's parents died when he was a teen-ager, so he moved to Wichita, Kan., to live with his brother.
He went to work at a McDonald's in Wichita and was later transferred to Shreveport, La. After 13 years with McDonald's, he said, he received a call from a recruiter about a job with Cracker Barrel.
Putnam said he believes in the books and tapes of business leadership expert Ken Blanchard. He said that includes taking care of employees, motivating them and treating them right.
Putnam is pleased with the results at the store, which he said employs 100 to 110 people.
Retail store
Wilder, 50, is originally from Chicago and has a degree in home economics from Illinois State University.
For several years she worked in retail stores in the Chicago area before heading south for warmer weather. She went to work at the Cracker Barrel in Vicksburg, but wanted to go to a larger city.
So she joined the Meridian store.
Although Putnam is the overall store manager, Wilder said she serves in tandem with him. Putnam oversees the restaurant, while Wilder oversees the retail store.
Wilder, like Putnam, believes in teamwork.