DI Families: A match made in…Publix
Many people in the Daniel Island community regard the folks who work at the island’s Publix store as family. We love waving hello to the friendly, familiar faces we see every day behind the counters.
The Daniel Island News recently learned about the wedding of two of the grocery store’s employees, cake decorator Cassandra (“Cass”) Smith and deli clerk Donald R. Johnson, who tied the knot last May. What made the nuptials even more special was that the union was enthusiastically applauded by store manager Vicki Parker and the rest of the “family” team at the local store. The couple also received the blessing of the groom’s father, DI Publix store cashier David L. Johnson, and the bride’s mother, soon-to-be DI Publix employee Hope Swank. But those aren’t the only Publix connections to the blissful day. Good friend Noah Grillo, produce clerk at the store, administered the couple’s vows – making the wedding a true Publix family affair.
How did you two meet, initially?
Cass Smith Johnson (CSJ): Donald and I first connected in 2011 on Mabinogi, a multi-player online video game that offers players a way to start an online dialogue. Our avatars actually “met” in one of the scenarios and we just continued communicating online then started texting and talking to each other often. We were friends for a long time before we actually met in person.
Donald R. Johnson (DRJ): The good thing about online games is that you can get to know someone who lives far away. At the time, I lived here in the Charleston area and Cass lived in Jackson, Michigan. Finally, I decided to go meet her in person during my vacation during June of 2013.
Was his visit a surprise?
CSJ: We had actually planned his trip for a while, talking via phone calls and Skype. His visit pretty much confirmed for both of us that we were meant to be together. I followed him to Charleston that very September.
DRJ: It was a good move for Cass to make. Besides, who doesn’t want to live in Charleston?
How long have you both been working at Publix/DI?
DRJ: I’ve been working here since 2011.
CSJ: In August, it will be two years for me.
Not everyone can live and work with their significant other. What is the special ingredient that makes this arrangement work?
DRJ: Our schedules make it so we’re not always home at the same time. When we are able to be together for a few hours, we may talk about work a little bit, or just relax and play video games. We recently moved to Daniel Island, so our commute is much shorter and we can spend more quality time with each other.
CSJ: Some people think that we spend too much time together, but I don’t think so. If you get along, there’s no problem. Working together gives you something to look forward to.
DRJ: I agree. It’s like having built-in comfort at your workplace.
Store Manager, Vicki Parker (VP): You definitely can see the love. Cass and Donald are definitely there for one another. Yet, as a family, [the Johnsons] all maintain a very professional attitude. You never hear them telling customers or new employees that they are related.
David, what qualities do you see in your son and daughter-in-law that make this union work?
David L. Johnson (DLJ): Cass is very talented and she excels at everything she puts her mind to. She is a real leader and a good influence on my son. The way I see it, Donald is the vessel and Cass is the sail. She always leads him in the right direction.
When you get time off together, how do you spend the day?
DRJ: The other week we went to a film festival downtown featuring the works of the famous anime creator, Hayao Miyazaki. Other times, we go to a park on Dorchester Road that’s basically empty of people. It’s nice and quiet.
When did the wedding take place?
CSJ: We had the ceremony on May 16 (2018). I chose that date because my mom had planned to come down to visit from Michigan that same week.
How many people attended the ceremony?
CSJ: About 20 people, including my mother and step-father. Of course, Donald’s father, David, was also there, as well as his mother and sister.
Noah Grillo (NG): Mostly everyone from the store was there. It was pretty much a Publix wedding, including a Publix cake and, of course, Publix fried chicken made fresh that morning by the groom himself.
CSJ: My friend Alley (Allison) Thomson, who’s a cake decorator in my department, made the cake for us. Alley told me that she was beyond happy for the both of us and felt honored to be asked to do the cake. After all, Alley reminded me, making cakes is where her friendship with me and Donald began.
You celebrated at a non-traditional venue. Can you tell us more about that?
CSJ: I had been having a hard time finding traditional wedding places, like churches and other halls that were available mid-May. Then, our friend Taylor, who also works at DI Publix, gave us a great idea: he mentioned that his brother’s girlfriend rented out, through Airbnb, a house she owned in West Ashley. We got it for the day. It was perfect!
Can you share some memorable highlights from the big day?
DLJ: It was raining all morning. But just as the ceremony was starting, the sun started shining through. It was beautiful.
CSJ: There was a lot of work to be done! I had ordered the trellis from Amazon and it arrived in a box in at least 100 pieces. I had to put it together myself that day, along with setting everything up. I barely had enough time to change into my wedding dress for the 3p.m. start. I was almost late for my own wedding!
DLJ: Cass can accomplish anything she puts her mind to. She’s talented, hard-working and selfless. She probably gets it from her family.
VP: I agree. Cass’s mother does share many of her qualities. As a matter of fact, I’ve already hired Cass’s mother to begin working at the store when she gets here in September.
The Johnson family members seem to share many of the same values as the Publix family. Qualities that make the concept of “family” work well.
VP: I look to hire employees just like Cass, Donald and David, who demonstrate a service heart and a positive, friendly attitude. Publix DI is very special store. All of the employees here, every single one, has an honest, truly wonderful personality. I can’t easily say that about other places that have more than one hundred employees.
Noah, you got ordained to administer the vows for Cass and Donald’s wedding. How did that come about?
NG: I have strong faith I like to share with others. And to give relationship advice to friends who ask. Months before the wedding, Cass and Donald were tossing around the idea of my doing their vows. I insisted that I wasn’t the right person. Cass, was very persistent. I discovered it wasn’t as time consuming to get a license online as I had thought…I have to admit that I was a little nervous because I didn’t go in with a script. I told Cass and Donald that I was going with my heart. Understandably, they were a little nervous, at first.
What was your reaction to Noah’s sermon?
CSJ: He was amazing! My mom cried while she was listening to his words.
Can you share a few highlights from the big day?
NG: The morning of the wedding, it was raining really hard. Donald and I ran around town picking up supplies for the wedding while Cass built the trellis set up all the chairs, and decorated everything with flowers.
DLJ: She did it all herself.
CSJ: Well, I did get some help from friends and family.
Yet you also managed to transform into a beautiful bride just in time to “dance” with your Prince Charming at the grandest ball of all.
CSJ: It definitely is a Cinderella story. I got my “happily ever after,” after all.