When Gerre Brenneman wandered into her northwest Fresno neighborhood Save Mart at West and Bullard avenues a few Mondays ago, she got a big surprise.
Larry Sutherland, who’s been carrying her groceries to her car for years, was playing his violin – among the groceries.
Her first reaction? “I smiled!” And, then she thought, “Go, Larry!”
She applauded his performance and got an immediate lift for her shopping trip.
He may not hit all the notes like a concert violist, but no one expects that in a grocery store. And to Brenneman, that makes it all the sweeter, just part of the charm of being serenaded while you’re sorting through the broccoli and brie.
“I played since I was a little kid,” Sutherland says. He explains that he’s been playing in the store for years, starting with entertaining corporate leaders as they toured the store and then blossoming into something special for shoppers.
More people need Larry’s work ethic and attitude.
Shopper Gerre Brenneman on Larry Sutherland, a Save Mart supermarket worker who occasionally serenades in the store with his violin
Brenneman, for one, is delighted to see him in this role.
A fan of social media, she took photos of him that very first day for her Facebook page, as if he were a favorite uncle.
“When I asked if I could take a picture, he said, ‘Sure. People take videos and everything.’ That’s our star.”
She posted his picture with this message: “Larry is a loved and dedicated grocery bagger who never misses a chance to say, ‘Thank you for your business.’ During this season, he greets us with violin Christmas carols. More people need Larry’s work ethic and attitude.”
Many others “Liked” the post and some customers and neighbors jumped in on the comments section:
“I LOVE Larry,” wrote Elaine. “He’s consistently been a sweetheart for all of the 20-plus years I’ve known him. He’s a great role model and probably doesn’t even realize it. He ALWAYS brightens my day.”
Brenneman, who is executive director of Evangel Home, a shelter for women who are homeless or survivors of domestic violence, especially appreciates his playlist variety. Last Monday, for instance, she heard him play the theme from “Star Wars” followed by “Silent Night.”
Save Mart store manager David Janzen of Clovis is a big supporter of his employee. “It’s very entertaining for our customers,” he says, “and separates us from the other stores in the area. Everyone gets in such a rush during the holiday season. His music makes everyone feel good.”
Janzen found out about the holiday tradition of Music Mondays when he started managing the store in September. He was eager to keep it going.
Sutherland plays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. but since Monday is Christmas Day and the store will be closed, he will play on Saturday and Sunday this week.
Looks like Sutherland’s future is “merry and bright” as a musician. Janzen is already dreaming up a romantic promotion for Valentine’s Day.