Ernesto Ramirez's friendly smile is a familiar sight to most anyone who frequents Shop-N-Kart. The hard-working 43-year old produce clerk is always in motion, stocking vegetables or helping customers select the perfect pear. "It's a good job," said Ramirez. "I get to meet a lot of nice people here, and I have fun with the people I work with," he added. Ramirez's greatest happiness is his family. When he is not working, he is with his wife and their 2 children. "They grow up fast. I want to spend every chance I can with them," said Ramirez. Carrie Senn, who shops at the local market said she appreciates Ramirez's friendly assistance. "It is always a joy to see Ernesto when I do my shopping. He is so positive and kind,"said Senn. Ramirez's co-workers agree. "He helps us keep a positive attitude," said Jeff Smith, who is also a produce clerk and has worked with Ramirez for 5 years. "Ernesto makes us smile. He's great," added Smith. During a break from work, Ramirez spoke with the Daily Tidings about his life in the Rogue Valley and the incomparable pleasure of spending time with his children.

DT: How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

ER: I've lived here 5 years.

DT: What brought you here?

ER: My wife did. She dragged me here [laughs]. We were living in San Francisco. She had been here before, I never had been, but she said let's go and if we like it we can stay. She had friends living in Ashland, so she would come up to visit Ashland every year for spring break during college. So when we got married we moved here from San Francisco, and I really like it. Everything is pretty close, rivers, lakes, mountains. You don't have to drive far for anything. I used to surf and I missed the ocean at first, but not too much, now. There is almost everything here, and no traffic.

DT: Talk about your work.

ER: I've been at Shop-n-Kart since 2001. I'm a produce person, a clerk here. I stock fruits and vegetables. That's it, mostly.

DT: What do you like best about your work?

ER: There are quite a few things I like, but what I like best is the schedule. I have a really flexible schedule so I can spend time with my children. Also, the bosses here are really nice people. They are very understanding. It's not strict here, you can be yourself and as long as you are responsible and do your job, they are good to you.

DT: Talk about your family.

ER: I have 2 boys, one is 5 1/2; and the other is 19 months, Alejandro and Emilio, and my wife Vickie. They are great. Vickie is a really great mother and wife. She is my best friend, my lover. I am very lucky. Very lucky,

DT: Tell us something about yourself that makes you proud.

ER: I think I have accomplished the American dream. That was one of my goals when I came to this country. I came here from El Salvador in 1985. Also, I have a younger brother who I am very proud of. He's an electrician. It's not easy to be one and it takes good skills. I also have a brother who ran the meat department at Costco. It was a really good job. And I have another brother who is a superintendent in El Salvador. When I talk about my brothers I always hold my head up high. I am so proud of them, so proud of all my brothers and sisters.

DT: Talk about something that has been challenging for you.

ER: One of the things that has always been challenging for me is the English language. I'd like to speak it like everybody else. I'd like to know more vocabulary, to say one sentence in a different way. That's always been a challenge for me. Talking to my wife is no problem. She can correct me any time.

DT: What do you like to do in your free time?

ER: Spend time with my kids. I also like to play basketball or sometimes ride my bike, but mostly I enjoy playing with my children. That's what I enjoy the most now. I also draw. I'm teaching my sons to draw, too. I realize they can only be little for a while and they are going to grow so fast. If I miss that I know I will regret it later.

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