Someone You Should Know: South Dakota’s best bagger

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 4:49 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - There is an art to bagging groceries, and Elijah Schipper is really good at it.

The employee at the Fareway store in Harrisburg is the two-time South Dakota state bagging champion.

“So the big thing when it comes to the competition — the speed is easy. As long as you get under a minute, you’re fine. You don’t get more points for that. What you need is the technique, and then the weight distribution. So between the three bags, which is what I usually use, they need to be about the same weight,” said Elijah.

Elijah has been working at this store since 2019. The now sophomore pre-law college student at Augustana was a bagger whom the Iowa-based chain had an eye on.

“Last year was the second year that South Dakota had done a bagging competition. And Fareway, not to brag, dominates in Iowa. That’s where they are mostly located, and they wanted a representative from South Dakota at the competition. It came mostly from the managers. They said, ‘We need somebody to go. You’re here a lot. You show a lot of passion for what you do,’” said Elijah.

“I’m not sure how many winners we’ve had at the national level in our company’s history, but in the state of Iowa, we are perennial powerhouses,” said Fareway grocery manager Cass Minton.

“Fareway does an excellent job of training its employees to be ready for this. We go to a competition before we even go to state. And I bag against other Fareway stores to practice and learn the rules, and learn what actually goes into it,” said Elijah.

Since he won state, Elijah will make a return trip to the national Best Bagger Championship in Las Vegas next year.

“The people that you get to meet in that is amazing, and the practice that they put into it — to see the passion that they share with you is great. So they only rank the top five, and then under that, they don’t tell you what you got. So, unfortunately, I wasn’t top five, but I tell everybody I was sixth. The goals this year are top five. I know I can do it. Last year, the nerves got to me. It is a loud stage, lots of people cheering,” said Elijah.

And his bagging skills have made him a fan favorite.

“We’ve had a lot of customers come in and congratulate him, compliment him, compliment the store,” said Cass.

“My dad always says you don’t quit a job because you hate the work. You quit because you hate the people. Obviously, I love the people that I work with, but also the people that I serve. And just getting to form that personal connection with all the customers, it’s just great,” said Elijah.

The winner of the competition in Las Vegas gets $10,000.