Sarah Millsap’s errand to stop and pick up some Cherry 7UP for her uncle seemed simple enough. But four grocery stores and two convenient stores later, it became apparently more complex.
In a final attempt, she called the United Supermarket on South 14th Street where she talked to grocery manager Sergio Aguillon and decided to tell him the whole story behind her request: her uncle, Don Chaney, was on hospice care and moving from Weatherford to Abilene under the care of her mom, his sister, Judi Chaney.
“He has always loved 7UP,” Millsap said. “He even drove a 7UP delivery truck while he was in high school.”
So, she explained to Aguillon, she wanted to get him some of his favorite drink to have on hand in what were likely to be his last days but couldn’t find it anywhere.
“Sergio was very sympathetic and said he would look into it and call me back. Honestly, at that point I was half expecting to not even get a call back,” Millsap said.
But she did.
“I figured this was pretty urgent and something that would make him happy at the end of his life,” Aguillon said.
After confirming that United didn’t carry it, he called his Pepsi vendor.
“He let me know that under our contract, we weren’t allowed to sell it here, which was news to me,” Agillon said.
Agillon also called a United store in San Angelo but discovered they had a similar contract that prevented it from being sold there. The closest options were Wichita Falls or the Dallas Fort Worth area. He called Millsap back to let her know that it wasn’t available in Abilene, but he said he was going to keep trying.
Next, he appealed to store director Christal Faries for help. Faries suggested that since their center store supervisor, Cale Theilen, was traveling in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, he might be able to bring some back with him.
“We were like ‘let’s give it a shot,’” Aguillon said.
As it turned out, Thielen’s children and Don shared a similar drink preference; Theilen kept a stock of it at his home. He had a few cases in his garage and told Faries and Aguillon to help themselves. By the next morning, two 12-packs were ready for Millsap’s mom, Judi, to pick up at the store at no charge.
“She was pretty happy,” Aguillon recalled. “I got a big hug.”
He also got some local fame. Millsap told the story in a Facebook post, applauding Sergio and the United team for their above-and-beyond customer service. Her post was shared 358 times, and local media outlets (plus a few outside the Big Country) also picked up on the feel-good story.
“After I posted on Facebook about the Cherry 7UP, my uncle Don got a lot of attention,” Millsap said. “He was always such a social man, so he actually loved the attention!”
Don passed away about eight weeks later. The two cases of Cherry 7UP held him over until his son could bring him some more from Weatherford.
Both Aguillon and Faries attended Don’s memorial service on Oct. 1.
“It was really a beautiful service and a wonderful surprise was having Sergio and Christal come,” Millsap said. “The whole story just brings a smile to our faces. Like many, we didn’t want his last few weeks on earth, full of sickness and suffering, to define Don.”
Instead, his last few weeks were defined by a simple act of care and service. It’s one that Aguillon, however, says is the standard.
“I think this is just what our company instills in us – to do our best to provide the ultimate service to our guests,” he said. “And in the situation Don was in, I wanted to make sure he was satisfied since this was a drink he’d loved all his life. I’m glad I was able to give him some lasting memories with his family, even through something as simple as Cherry 7UP.”