For eight years, Bill Rabe has been welcoming and entertaining the customers at the Walmart Supercenter in Madison, Ohio (Ashtabula County) with his music and his passion for making people happy. He may not have made it to Carnegie Hall, but he does have his share of fans.At the age of six I began learning to play the violin. I discovered a passion for music and learned the profound affect it can have on people. Eighty years later, I enjoy playing the viola and the ukulele and appreciate how it can bring a smile.
In 2006, on my 79th birthday, I began working for Walmart as a greeter. I retired from the health care field in 1992 and wanted to stay busy – that is after my daily round of golf. I think it was during my orientation when Brian (Store Manager Brian Fabiniak) shared with me the Sam Walton philosphy that if you make the customer happy coming in and you make them happy going out, they’ll come back again. So I thought, okay let’s get them happy. I brought in the ukelele and I started playing for the customers as they came in and people liked it.
Three days a week from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. you can find me greeting the customers with some of the big band era music I grew up with from the '20s, '30s and '40s. I do take requests or mess around with customers who want to play “name that tune.” The real joy is when I see kids coming in the store and I do “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “Wheels on the Bus” and they sing along. Of course I’ll play “Let me Call You Sweetheart” for the women and “Hail to the Chief” for the men.
I remember one of the high school students who worked here wanted to learn to play the ukelele so I taught him some chords and later showed him to play the violin. On break times we would play together in the front of the store and the people really liked it so it all evolved into what I’m doing today.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and I consider this my store and look at the customers as my friends. So when a friend comes in, I say hello and ask how they are doing. We will spend a little time and talk which has given me the opportunity to get to know a lot of the customers personally.
I know from working in management during my career in health care, it’s the people around you that get the job done and enabling them to do their best is what’s important. I feel that Walmart does a pretty good job at doing that.
So I plan to stay here and continue playing the viola for the customers as they come in. That is unless I hit the big time. After all Guy Lombardo and Bob Hope were from Cleveland. You never know.