This piece was submitted by Jennifer Butler VanGinhoven about her mother’s recent retirement from .
Perhaps James Taylor was talking about Carlene Butler when he sang, “Whenever I see your smiling face, I have to smile myself,” because there isn’t a person I know who didn’t feel that same way about walking into Peter Pan Gift Shop when Carlene Butler was working.
“Tuesdays (and all days) with Carlene were all giggles from the moment we walked in until we locked the doors at 6,” said Mary Ann Fox, a former Peter Pan employee. “She truly made Peter Pan fun for me and for our customers.”
Carlene Butler drove her daughter to college one day in August 1999, and the very next day she was ringing up customers with a smile at the gift shop. It was a unique start to her retail career and the adventures kept rolling from there. For 13 years, Carlene offered extraordinary customer service, both to regulars and those lucky enough to stumble upon the treasure that is Peter Pan Gift Shop.
It’s the customers Carlene will miss the most. She’s always been a small-town gal. Having grown up in Sag Harbor on Long Island, NY, she moved to southern New Jersey with her husband John shortly after getting married—in fact, the very next day. She’s held a variety of jobs over the years: bank teller, nursery school teacher and retail associate. But hands-down the jobs she’s loved the most are wife, mother and, most recently, grandmother.
Peter Pan owner Melody Manning, who’s run the shop for 45 years, described Carlene as a “very fine employee,” who had a knack for connecting with customers.
“She was very friendly with all the customers,” Melody said. “She gave great customer service.”
According to Melody, Carlene was just one of many Peter Pan employees with lengthy tenures at the shop. Melody said she has two employees who have been with her roughly 35 years apiece; her least senior employee has been with her 10 years.
“They come and they’re happy and they stay,” she said. “It’s a very friendly environment at the store … I think (Carlene) is going to miss being here and seeing a lot of the people.”
Carlene herself will almost certainly be missed.
“We worked together for 10 years,” said fellow Moorestown resident and former co-worker Beth Mulligan. “Sometimes we laughed so hard we cried. We called it ‘internal jogging.’”
Beth went on to comment about the customers as well: “They were different when Carlene was working. We had more active, lively conversations and got to know people. Customers remember when the person waiting on you actually cares.”
Beth left Peter Pan Gift Shop right before Carlene, and said she was glad not to have to work without her.
What adventures does Carlene’s future hold? Just shy of two weeks into her early retirement, it’s too early to tell. However, you can be sure that good times with friends and the making of lasting family memories are high on her list. If you catch “Carlie being Carlie” and smiling her way through town, be sure to say hi. You’ll find yourself smiling all the way home, and your life will be changed for good.
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