KNOXVILLE — For job security even during economic downturns, Steven Jones suggests people consider the grocery industry.

Jones, who has worked at Food City stores in Sevier County, was recently named one of the grocery chain’s district managers.

“Food City has taken very good care of us through the good economies and the bad economies,” said Jones. “It’s good and steady. It’s always there. It can’t be turned off by the whims of the economy.”

Jones started his grocery career in 1999 as a courtesy clerk with a different supermarket chain.

“Courtesy clerks will bag groceries, get carts out of the parking lot, do minor cleaning,” Jones said.

He did not take the job with any plans to stay in the grocery industry.

“I think like most teenagers, I probably wasn’t thinking as deeply as you should,” he said.

Jones later worked at positions including cashier, perishables stocker, assistant produce manager and produce manager.

He joined Food City in 2005 as an assistant store manager in the Halls community of Knox County.

“When I made the change to Food City, I knew it was where I needed to be,” said Jones. “They’re a real community partner. I knew I wanted to be a part of that.”

“I’ve enjoyed watching Steven grow as a leader in our company over the years as he has taken on different challenges and excelled at them,” said Food City President and CEO Steven Smith. “Our company is only successful when our people are successful, and we’re very excited to have Steven lead District 8 for Food City.”

His career has taken him to Food City stores such as Knoxville’s Bearden community, plus locations in Sevierville and Pigeon Forge.

Asked if a willingness to move to different markets is required for advancement, Jones said that has not been his experience.

“In the grocery business, I can only speak for Food City,” he said. “They don’t necessarily require anyone to move. It’s not a prerequisite to be promoted, but it’s definitely an option for anyone who wants to move.”

The grocery veteran with 22 years of experience understands the day-to-day details that make each location different.

Jones worked at Sevierville’s Food City on Dolly Parton Parkway and later managed the original Pigeon Forge store on the Parkway. He opened and managed the new Pigeon Forge Food City on Teaster Lane.

“The ebbs and flows of the business are drastically more than in Knoxville or other locations,” he said of Sevier County’s stores that see a high volume of tourist traffic. “We would be tremendously busy in the summertime.”

Jones said the stores he worked at in Sevier County have to replenish stock of items such as charcoal, picnic supplies, travel-size toiletries and sunblock more frequently than stores that cater primarily to permanent residents.

His territory as district manager will include Food City locations in counties such as Knox, Anderson, Cumberland, Putnam and Rhea. Sevier County is not part of his territory.

“Thank you for the hospitality that Sevier County showed me,” said Jones. “I was a member of the Pigeon Forge Hospitality and Tourism Association. I was proud to be a member of that organization.”

Jones encourages people to seriously consider a career in the grocery industry, noting there are jobs available that many don’t necessarily associate with the business.

“People of different personalities can do well,” he said. “There are opportunities in accounting, project management, transportation. All those are part of making the stores run. A lot of the people in those positions started in the stores.”

On Wednesday, Food City hosted in-person hiring events at its approximately 135 stores in five states.

Food City spokesperson Tammy Baumgardner says those who missed the job fairs can still apply at the kiosk in their local store or online.

A Wednesday search of Food City openings in Sevier County showed 192 jobs available, with positions ranging from courtesy clerk and personal shopper to sushi chef.

Information about job openings is available at www.foodcity.com.

Contact Juli at jneil@themountainpress.com or on Twitter at @NeilWatsonJ.