Cockrell ending 36-year career with J.C. Penney

Published 1:42 am Wednesday, June 4, 2014

J.C. Penney manager Dennis Cockrell will be honored with a reception this Sunday.

J.C. Penney manager Dennis Cockrell will be honored with a reception this Sunday.

Dennis Cockrell is not from Andalusia, but he has lived and worked here for nearly a decade. Monday, one of those things will change when he retires from his position as store manager at J.C. Penney.

“I came here in July of 2005,” Cockrell said. “I have worked for J.C. Penney for 36 years. I started as a trainee and worked in three different stores in the Birmingham area with increasing amounts of responsibility before I came here as store manager.”

While Cockrell admitted at least a slight hesitance to relocating from one of the state’s largest cities to a small town he had never even visited, he said his first trip to Andalusia convinced him he had made the right choice.

“I thought the store was fantastic,” he said. “I was really impressed (with Andalusia). So many small towns look depressed and like they’re on their last leg. But Andalusia doesn’t give you that feeling. It was named one of Alabama’s top towns, and I can see why; it’s a real gem.”

But it wasn’t just his new hometown that Cockrell grew to love, and in 2013 he married a Covington County native.

“Benny Jo is from Opp,” Cockrell said. “So she has family here and we’re going to continue to live here (after I retire).”

Eventually, however, Cockrell said he and his wife do plan to move back to the Birmingham area in order to be closer to family.

“Together, we have five children and three grandchildren, and one grandchild on the way,” he said.

In the meantime, Cockrell said he is looking forward to planning his retirement, but will miss the men and women he has worked with in Andalusia.

“We have a number of associates that have been here over five years,” he said. “But we also have kids that go to LBW that need jobs. That’s a great pool to hire from. We’ve had a lot of great kids that have worked here, and we’ve had some that come through and retire.”

In all, Cockrell said he will say goodbye to 32 associates when he officially retires next week, but added he sees plenty of good things in the future for Andalusia’s J.C. Penney location.

“August it will be the 75-year anniversary for the Andalusia J.C. Penney,” he said. “For a town like Andalusia to have a relationship with a store for that long is a great thing. I want to be here to see that, but I won’t be that far away.”

Cockrell said a retirement party will also be held in his honor at the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce Sunday from 2 until 4 p.m.