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Galesburg Hy-Vee Employee Earns Company's Highest Honor

Cornell Clay named 2021 Hy-Vee Legendary Customer Service Award recipient

September 9, 2021 | News & Press Releases

Cornell Clay (second from right) with Hy-Vee District Vice President, Peoria District, Eric Gharst (right), Henderson Hy-Vee Store Manager Sam Lambert (second from left), and Henderson Hy-Vee District Store Director Don Kuhn (left).

GALESBURG, Ill. (Sept. 9, 2021) — Customers at the Henderson Hy-Vee in Galesburg know just who to turn to when they need help. They’ll find the helpful smile and exemplary customer service Hy-Vee is known for in Cornell Clay.

Cornell, the assistant manager of health, wellness, and home at the Henderson Hy-Vee, takes every opportunity to make a customer or child smile. Cornell’s positive attitude is infectious among customers and co-workers. That’s why fellow employees, family members, customers and Hy-Vee executives gathered at the Henderson Hy-Vee yesterday to surprise Cornell with the Legendary Customer Service Award. The award recognizes exemplary achievement in providing service that exceeds customers’ expectations. Only 11 winners were selected from among more than 86,000 Hy-Vee employees across eight states.

“Cornell Clay is a person who brings the Hy-Vee fundamentals to life,” wrote Eric Gharst, district vice president for Hy-Vee’s Peoria district. “Everyone who interacts with him knows that they are valued and important to our company. His personal connections with customers and community leaders have brought a lot of benefits to his store. He is an amazing employee and a wonderfully giving person.”

When he’s not making customers feel welcome, Cornell can be found sharing his knowledge with other employees. Cornell worked his way up to his current position after starting as a cashier. He’s known as a great leader who strives to make a difference in the store, for customers and coworkers alike. Customers often ask for him by name when they need any kind of assistance in the store. Cornell’s positive influence goes outside the store as well, leading donation events to help community food banks and diaper drives.

“The customers know that when they walk in the door that Cornell will be there waiting to help them,” wrote Sam Lambert, store manager at the Henderson Hy-Vee. “When someone is having a bad day he will go out of his way to make sure he can help in any way that he can. He listens to employees’ concerns, and will take the time to try to come up with a solution that is right for everyone. He makes the time to talk to them each and every day.”

Candidates are nominated for the Legendary Customer Service Award by their co-workers, and winners are selected by a panel of Hy-Vee’s top officers. Nominations are evaluated on the employee’s overall contributions to the company in nine areas: passion for customer service, attitude, initiative, teamwork, problem-solving skills, dedication to Hy-Vee fundamentals, communication skills, professional image and self-confidence.

Hy-Vee’s Chairman, CEO and President Randy Edeker said Cornell demonstrates exactly the type of caring commitment to others that Hy-Vee leaders had in mind when the Legendary Customer Service Awards were established in 2006.

“Cornell is an outstanding example of Hy-Vee’s legendary customer service and the power of a positive attitude,” Edeker said. “This award honors the best of the best in our Hy-Vee family and Cornell is certainly deserving of this award.”

Cornell and the other 2021 recipients of the Legendary Customer Service Award will be inducted into Hy-Vee’s Customer Service Hall of Fame and receive a coveted Legendary Customer Service name badge and a custom-designed ring to commemorate the honor. Recipients will also receive a crystal trophy and a free trip of their choice.


Hy-Vee, Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating more than 280 retail stores across eight Midwestern states with sales of $11 billion annually. The supermarket chain is synonymous with quality, variety, convenience, healthy lifestyles, culinary expertise and superior customer service. Hy-Vee ranks in the Top 10 Most Trusted Brands and has been named one of America’s Top 5 favorite grocery stores. The company’s more than 86,000 employees provide “A Helpful Smile in Every Aisle” to customers every day. For additional information, visit