A fixture in the Pickerington community is hanging up his apron one last time after 63 years in the grocery business and giving up his title as Kroger's longest-serving current associate.

It was way back in 1953 when Larry Arnold started bagging groceries for the Kroger Co.

As a junior at Bishop Rosecrans High School in Zanesville, he accepted the position one week before his 16th birthday.

Arnold never left the grocery business. One could say he found his calling.

Hard work and perseverance through those early years paid dividends as Kroger promoted Arnold through the ranks in Zanesville to head grocery clerk.

When the Zanesville store where he worked closed in 1986, Arnold was transferred to Pickerington's Hill Road Kroger store. He has worked there since.

But in December, Arnold decided to announce his retirement. It was effective Feb. 28. The company held an open house celebrating the milestone at the Pickerington Kroger Marketplace, 1045 Hill Road North.

Kroger is one of the nation's largest operators of traditional supermarkets, with approximately 443,000 associates employed throughout the country, according to company officials.

"Kroger is grateful to Larry for his decades of service to the company and its customers," said Joe Grieshaber, Kroger Columbus Division president.

"All of us with Kroger congratulate him and his family on a tremendous career, and wish him all the best in retirement."

Kroger has been a big part of Arnold's life in more ways than one. He met his wife, Marilyn, at his first job in Zanesville.

"We've been married 59 years," he said.

Five children and seven grandchildren later, Arnold credits, in part, Kroger for bringing the two together.

"They are all doing well so I've accomplished that," he said of his family.

Arnold said has seen his fair share of changes in Pickerington over the 31 years he has been at the Hill Road store.

"The retail business hasn't changed that much, but the city has changed a lot," he said. "It has grown quite a bit. It's busier."

Despite the growth, Arnold said he considers Pickerington to be just "a real nice place."

"I'm going to miss the customers and the people of Pickerington," he said. "I've enjoyed all of them, but it's just time."

Arnold was Kroger's head dairy clerk in Pickerington until two years ago, when he stepped down to let a younger associate run the program.

He was a dairy clerk at retirement and said he will always be proud of Kroger's dairy department.

"They've got good products," he said, adding Kroger chocolate milk has traditionally been a popular-seller.

"People buy an awful lot if it. They like it, no doubt about that. (And,) they didn't like it when we would run out of it," he said before laughing.

Although never a resident of Pickerington, (he lives outside Zanesville), Arnold said he will always have a place in his heart for the Kroger Marketplace on Hill Road North.

"I've got a lot of friends there," he said. "I'm sure I will be dropping back in. I can't get away from it, I've just got too many friends there."

At age 79, Arnold said he has no plans to slow down.

"We'll probably travel a little bit. We do like to go to a few places. Nashville, Myrtle Beach and Vegas sometimes. We may do a little more of that," Arnold said.

And he plans to make the commute to Pickerington, now and then, of course.

"No doubt. Kroger has been part of my family," he said.