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Joyce Midgett Spencer, second from left, receives a thank-you plaque from Tommy Hutcherson, who, along with his mother Julia, far left, and Tommy’s wife Cathy, right, own the Ocracoke Variety Store. Spencer retired this week after 37 years of working there.

By Connie Leinbach
An island era came to an end as Joyce Midgett Spencer concludes her final week after 37 years of working for the Variety Store, most recently in the hardware section for the last six years.
Joyce is looking forward to “staying home,” and spending more time with her children, grand-children and great-grand-children, who all live in the Raleigh area or Florida.

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Joyce Spencer, right, helps islander Tony Sylvester. Photo by C. Leinbach

Joyce has seen a lot of change during her tenure.
“In one way, I’ve learned a lot,” she said on her last day Tuesday. “For it being a small store, there’s a lot here.”
“A lot” covers all of the various items one can buy in the hardware store that Joyce and the other workers have to be familiar with, be it nuts and bolts, bicycle parts, plumbing parts or paint.
While the hardware store gets a lot of traffic daily, the pace is slower, which is what she liked, Joyce said.
In season, the grocery store workers go full bore daily serving both the thousands of visitors and local residents, said Tommy Hutcherson, whose parents “Hutch” and Julia Hutcherson purchased the store in 1983 from Henry Rogers.
“Joyce came with the store,” Julia said, along with Chester Lynn and Geneva Odom.
When the Hutcherson’s, who hail from Virginia Beach, purchased the complex, the current Variety Store also contained a dance hall, beauty shop, restaurant and furniture store, Tommy said.  Joyce had been there for five years, starting when she was 43.
And Joyce has been a model employee during her 32 years working for the Hutchersons, Tommy said, who presented Joyce with a thank-you plaque for her years of service.
“She has been a great employee,” Tommy said, taking a few moments’ pause between his chores.  “And I mean great. She would come in any time she was called.”
Even if Joyce didn’t feel good sometimes, later, when she felt better, she went to work.
“She was very dedicated,” Tommy continued. “Younger people could learn from her work ethic.”
While also guiding customers to the right product, Joyce said many visitors would pop in, and if they were looking for the ABC store next door or the Variety Store, they’d stay a bit and ask questions about the island.
“When they heard I’m an islander, they wanted to talk and hear the brogue,” Joyce said about her island accent.
Visitors and residents will continue to see Jim Piland and Janet Spencer (Joyce’s niece) working in the hardware store.  Both the Variety and hardware stores are open all year.

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