Brady Long, left, of Wadsworth, beat 22 other baggers to claim the $10,000 grand prize at the National Grocers Association’s Best Bagger championship Monday in Las Vegas. Others pictured are, from left, Duff Goldman, Food Network; Kristin Mullins, president/CEO, Ohio Grocers; Peter Larkin, president/CEO, National Grocers; and Bob Ling, chairman, National Grocers. PHOTO PROVIDED
There will be a champion at Buehler’s Fresh Foods in Medina when Brady Long returns to work later this week.
The 23-year-old brought home to Wadsworth the grand prize of $10,000 from the National Grocers Association’s Best Bagger championship at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The University of Akron accounting student beat out 22 other baggers from around the country.
“It was very exciting,” Long said.
He has been the top bagger in the state for two consecutive years. When he went to the national event last year, he said he was extremely nervous. He didn’t place last year.
“This year, I was a lot more confident,” Long said.
He said he already has a good idea what he’ll do with the money.
“I need a new vehicle,” Long said. “That will go a long way.”
He said he drives a 1996 Dodge van that desperately needs to be replaced.
The nationwide competition, designed to promote supermarket employees, has been held by the National Grocers Association since 1987.
Contestants are judged on speed of bagging, proper bag-building technique, weight distribution in the bag, as well as style, attitude and appearance, and are chosen through state competitions over the course of the previous year.
Long said his secret was to “go fast” and be “accurate.”
After he made it through the first round of the competition, he advanced to a “Bag Off” among the final five. He said after he won, there were “a lot of smiles and excitement.”
Phil Kocin, manager of the Forest Meadows Buehler’s store where Long has worked about five years, said he couldn’t be happier for his employee.
“That’s huge,” he said. “He took it all. To go back two years in a row, it’s a big accomplishment.”
Kocin said he received a text Monday night that Long had won the competition.
“He’s really a nice man,” he said. “He’s very quiet and laid back. He’s always respectful.”
Long said he was interviewed by NBC’s “Today Show” after the event. He said he was told it would air at 8 a.m. Sunday on WKYC-TV 3.
A star of the cable television channel Food Network, chef Duff Goldman, served as master of ceremonies for the event.
“Baggers and courtesy clerks are often the last impression a customer has of a store, and because of this, superior bagging skills, along with friendly customer service, are critical elements to a positive shopping experience for the consumer,” National Grocers Association President and CEO Peter J. Larkin said in a statement.
“The Best Bagger competition truly epitomizes the spirit and work ethic of the supermarket industry. Congratulations to Brady, who competed with great enthusiasm, and to all our Best Bagger participants who showcased their passion for excellent customer service.”
Long, who brought his 24-year-old brother, Andrew, with him to Las Vegas, said they had fun visiting Nevada.
“In Vegas, there’s always a lot to do,” he said.
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.