South Charlotte

Happiness is in the bag for 84-year-old ‘Jimmy'

His nametag says “Jaime,” but most folks call him “Jimmy.”

He nods politely with a knowing smile at the butchered pronunciations customers come up with.

“Jaime” is properly pronounced “Hi-may.”

No matter what he's called, Jaime “Jimmy” Arreguin has become a familiar face in Ballantyne. The silver-haired 84-year-old works six hours every weekday as a bagger at the Harris Teeter store at Ballantyne Commons. He still moves pretty fast, sorting groceries into bags and following customers several decades younger than himself to help load bags into their cars.

“I love the little kids who are misbehaving, because I can put a smile on their face and make the day better for their mommies,” says Jimmy, a native of Mexico whose accent has softened over the years.

“The little ones call out to me, ‘Mr. Jimmy! Mr Jimmy!' and it makes me so happy.”

He helped open the Ballantyne store in 1999 and was its first Employee of the Month, says wife Natalie Newell, 63. Customers have come to look forward to seeing him, and compliment his energy and work ethic.

“When will I retire?” he says. “That's the question everyone asks me. I'd like to retire and do nothing but spend time with my wife, but it's hard for me to be home and do nothing. I need to be here, with all the nice people.”

He does all the normal bagger duties. But, for safety's sake, he moves only five or fewer shopping carts at a time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers age 75 and older make up less than 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

Natalie says Jimmy never sits still, despite arthritis and other health issues.

“We hired a lawn service after Jimmy had double knee replacement surgeries, and just this summer he made me fire them because he wanted to do everything himself again,” she said. “He goes out and mows and weeds, and trims branches. He has more energy than people a third his age, and it's astounding.”

When he does relax, he enjoys watching baseball and football on TV. He's also a big Redskins fan.

“When I was a young guy back in Mexico, I played soccer, and of course this was before Americans knew what a real futbol looked like,” he says, laughing.

Jimmy came to the United States from Mexico when he was very young and became a naturalized citizen in October 1989.

He spent several years working at the Shoreham Hotel's famous Blue Room in Washington, D.C. The historic hotel and nightclub drew dignitaries and celebrities, including President Harry Truman, who enjoyed all-night poker games with several senators. The Blue Room was a favorite haunt of future president John F. Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier while they were courting. It also was the site of Liza Minnelli's first public performance.

Jimmy and Natalie met at the Shoreham in 1968. “He was one of the last professional white-gloved, French service waiters in Washington,” she says.

They enjoyed a long romance, and married in 1993.

Jimmy's second career was in auto repair – he owned a shop in Washington.

“It was his real passion,” Natalie says.

He sold it 10 years ago when arthritis made it too hard to work on cars.

“In Washington, everyone knew him,” she says. “If we stopped at a traffic light, someone in the next car would be honking the horn and waving at him. When we were talking about leaving Washington to be near family in Charlotte, he was depressed. He said we would be going to a place where no one knew him or his history, or his accomplishments.”

But he fell in love with Charlotte on a visit in the spring of 1999, and consented to the move. He decided to apply at Harris Teeter so he'd get out of the house and be around people.

“And to pay for his car, his insurance, and his rum,” Natalie says.

She works as a secretary at a law firm uptown. They live in the Ballantyne area.

Everywhere they go now, it seems, folks recognize Jimmy from the store.

“People recognize him and greet him like a long-time friend,” Natalie says. “He is a happy man.”

His nametag says “Jaime,” but most folks call him “Jimmy.”

He nods politely with a knowing smile at the butchered pronunciations customers come up with.

“Jaime” is properly pronounced “Hi-may.”

No matter what he's called, Jaime “Jimmy” Arreguin has become a familiar face in Ballantyne. The silver-haired 84-year-old works six hours every weekday as a bagger at the Harris Teeter store at Ballantyne Commons. He still moves pretty fast, sorting groceries into bags and following customers several decades younger than himself to help load bags into their cars.

“I love the little kids who are misbehaving, because I can put a smile on their face and make the day better for their mommies,” says Jimmy, a native of Mexico whose accent has softened over the years.

“The little ones call out to me, ‘Mr. Jimmy! Mr Jimmy!' and it makes me so happy.”

He helped open the Ballantyne store in 1999 and was its first Employee of the Month, says wife Natalie Newell, 63. Customers have come to look forward to seeing him, and compliment his energy and work ethic.

“When will I retire?” he says. “That's the question everyone asks me. I'd like to retire and do nothing but spend time with my wife, but it's hard for me to be home and do nothing. I need to be here, with all the nice people.”

He does all the normal bagger duties. But, for safety's sake, he moves only five or fewer shopping carts at a time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers age 75 and older make up less than 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

Natalie says Jimmy never sits still, despite arthritis and other health issues.

“We hired a lawn service after Jimmy had double knee replacement surgeries, and just this summer he made me fire them because he wanted to do everything himself again,” she said. “He goes out and mows and weeds, and trims branches. He has more energy than people a third his age, and it's astounding.”

When he does relax, he enjoys watching baseball and football on TV. He's also a big Redskins fan.

“When I was a young guy back in Mexico, I played soccer, and of course this was before Americans knew what a real futbol looked like,” he says, laughing.

Jimmy came to the United States from Mexico when he was very young and became a naturalized citizen in October 1989.

He spent several years working at the Shoreham Hotel's famous Blue Room in Washington, D.C. The historic hotel and nightclub drew dignitaries and celebrities, including President Harry Truman, who enjoyed all-night poker games with several senators. The Blue Room was a favorite haunt of future president John F. Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier while they were courting. It also was the site of Liza Minnelli's first public performance.

Jimmy and Natalie met at the Shoreham in 1968. “He was one of the last professional white-gloved, French service waiters in Washington,” she says.

They enjoyed a long romance, and married in 1993.

Jimmy's second career was in auto repair – he owned a shop in Washington.

“It was his real passion,” Natalie says.

He sold it 10 years ago when arthritis made it too hard to work on cars.

“In Washington, everyone knew him,” she says. “If we stopped at a traffic light, someone in the next car would be honking the horn and waving at him. When we were talking about leaving Washington to be near family in Charlotte, he was depressed. He said we would be going to a place where no one knew him or his history, or his accomplishments.”

But he fell in love with Charlotte on a visit in the spring of 1999, and consented to the move. He decided to apply at Harris Teeter so he'd get out of the house and be around people.

“And to pay for his car, his insurance, and his rum,” Natalie says.

She works as a secretary at a law firm uptown. They live in the Ballantyne area.

Everywhere they go now, it seems, folks recognize Jimmy from the store.

“People recognize him and greet him like a long-time friend,” Natalie says. “He is a happy man.”

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