Candace Eaccarino has always been a go-getter.
At 18, when Candace was still a student at Norwalk High School, she started working part-time at Loehmann's.
Three years later she graduated from Norwalk High School (Special Education students graduate at age 21) Candace, who goes by "Candi," transitioned smoothly to the world of work.
Candi, who will be 45 in May and was born with Down Syndrome, learned last week, along with her colleagues at Loehmann's that the entire store chain will soon go out of business.
Candi loves working at Loehmann's. She's been there 26 years, commuting to Norwalk three days a week from the group home she shares with five others in Fairfield.
Loehmann's, according to Candi, has been a stellar employer, giving her a bracelet and luggage on her milestone employment anniversaries. They've also provided benefits and annual raises, though Candi is a part-timer.
Patch had a chance to sit down with the soon-to-be ex-Loehmann's employee after her shift on Tuesday. Candi isn't sad as much as concerned about her next job, because she loves to work. Her first job was flipping burgers at McDonald's, back when she was 16. Her work ethic and enthusiasm are unwavering. In fact she's rarely missed a day of work during her 26 years at Loehmann's.
"I'm never tired. I just keep going," said Candi when asked about her approach to work.
Candi, who is seeking a new part-time job in retail to replace her 12-15 hours a week at Loehmann's, has an impressive resume. One of her assets is an ability to memorize lists. When she worked at Blockbuster for eight years, she used flashcards to memorize all the abbreviations for the movie categorizing system for re-shelving videos and DVDs. She also memorizes TV schedules out of TV Guide and enjoys a pop quiz.
"What time is Jeopardy on?," she is asked. "Seven o' clock," she answers in a flash, adding, "Then Wheel of Fortune, 7:30pm. People's court Monday to Friday 4:00pm." Asked if she likes reality TV, she replies, "The Bachelor, 8:00pm Monday nights!"
Candi loves Worldwide Wrestling and is almost as proud of her Hulk Hogan jacket as she is of the professional wardrobe she has assembled over the years working at Loehmann's.
Candi rattles off a list of all her favorite wrestlers as if she expected the question. "The Shed, Triple H, Stephen McMann, CM Punk, Snake Roberts," Candi says off the top of her head. "And Vince McMann. He is the best manager in wrestling."
Candi, who learned how to read from her mother, defying expectations at the time, takes pride in every election and, above all else cherishes her independence and the pride of her paycheck, much of which she saves. "I've been to Boston, California twice, Bermuda and on a Disney Cruise," she said. "I've been to London too," she added and her step-father Larry mentioned that Candi had saved her own money for that trip.
And Candi loves to dance, especially to disco. At Larry's gym, where there an exercise class was set to music, Candi asked whether she could teach the class. According to Larry he agreed, since that particular day no one had showed up for the class. With the music cranked up, Candi began teaching the routine to an empty room, but before long club members arrived and Candi led them in the dance which she had memorized by heart.
Larry recalls the day he met Candi back when she was 12. "Her mother introduced me to her and Candi said, 'I don't talk to strangers,' before going off to her room," Larry said. "But later her TV was on the fritz and I fixed the antenna. That was when she came around. 'Okay big shot,' she said to me."
Candi participates in several sports. She likes to swim the back stroke and freestyle, and bowls every weekend. She's competed in Special Olympics in gymnastics, and has even brought home medals.
Candi has also worked at Walmart in the Housewares Department and at a nursing home folding laundry. But, it is the Loehmann's job that has spanned decades, and the one she'd like to replace.
With a winning smile and an occasional one-line zinger, Candi is sure she would make a great addition to the staff at a local retailer.