By Andrea Brown
The (Everett) Daily Herald
EVERETT — He’s the caped crusader on the front lines of Walmart.
Rescuing carts, assisting cashiers and swooping up lost toys in a single bound.
Isaiah Owens is Captain Walmart, a title many might dread but that he embraces.
Flowing from the back of his yellow vest is a yellow-and-blue cape with that sunburst logo the company refers to as “the spark.”
This isn’t a Halloween costume for Owens, 28, who has worked at the Everett Walmart Supercenter since 2014. It’s his alter ego.
It all started a year ago. Customer service workers nationwide were forced to wear the special capes in a store promotion that someone in an office somewhere came up with as a way to regale shoppers in the hectic back-to-school season.
“Not everyone was really thrilled,” Owens said. “Some people thought they looked silly. I actually really liked it. It was getting a chance to be a kid again. I put it on and I couldn’t take it off.”
And he hasn’t. He has worn it to work every day since. “I safety-pinned it to my vest.”
Tara Aston, Walmart corporate spokeswoman in Arkansas, said she doesn’t know of any other worker who kept wearing the cape after the 2017 gig.
“He’s the only one rocking it on the regular,” Aston said.
Owens has only one cape. It is fraying and thinning. He doesn’t know what he’ll do when he wears it out.
Not to worry. Corporate plans to keep him caped.
“I always wanted to be a superhero,” said Owens, who read a lot of comics as a kid.
It fits his work duties.
“My whole job is to walk around the store, mainly the front end, and make sure everybody is finding what they need, getting the right prices,” he said. “I do my best to make sure everyone is in a good mood, whether it’s just talking to them in a calm tone or being extra goofy. I like to walk around the store and sing.”
The cape reflects his personality.
“I was the type of kid, cars would come around in the cul-de-sac where we lived and I’d run out to the car to see if they were lost or were looking for something specific,” he said. “It would give my mom a heart attack many times.”
He parlayed those service skills after graduating from Mariner High School in 2008, starting with Starbucks.
“I left Starbucks to do six more customer service jobs until I found my way here. I was looking for a job that paid more. Walmart was hiring for a customer service supervisor and they took me.”
Walmart is where he met his wife, Carolina, an apparel department manager.
“We both came from different backgrounds and converged,” he said. The couple has a 7-month-old son, Noah, and a blended family of three older children.
All she has to do is say she’s married to the “cape guy” and people know who she’s talking about.
“I’ve been called a lot of different names,” he said. “SuperWalmartman or just SuperWalmart. Superman. SuperSpark. Captain Walmart is my favorite.”
Shopper James Carter Fenton prefers to bestow him with a title from his British homeland.
“I call him Sir Walmart,” Fenton said. “Would you want to mess with a guy wearing a cape like that? I saw him and I said, ‘I want one of those capes.’ ”
The capes aren’t for sale in the big-box store or www.sparkshop.com/16/home.htm, but there are keyrings, hats and other items with the sunburst icon that founder Sam Walton called an inspiration and which is meant to encourage innovation among the ordinary rest of us.
Owens was a hero to shopper Josh Bright.
“I dropped my daughter’s blanket inside and he made sure I got it back,” Bright said.
Lots of things end up on the floor. It doesn’t take super powers to save the day.
“Kids are kids,” Owens said. “When they’re sitting in a cart and playing with toys they throw them, and their parents are shoppers and focused on whatever they’re doing, and the next thing you know it’s, ‘Oh, no, where’s their shoes, their hat, their blanket?’ It happens all the time. I’ll see it and do my best to get it to the right people.”
Owens has about 20 lapel pins on his vest. Those pins reflect good customer reviews. You know, those surveys on the bottom of the receipt that most people ignore. Next time you get one, take a few minutes to fill it out if you liked the service, or call the store. Companies pay attention. Owens is proud of his pins.
Store manager Bridget Crist praised her super employee.
“When Isaiah is here, the front end lights up,” Crist said. “They know he’s going to be there for them and answer questions. The customers love him and his cape and what he represents for us.”
And his wife, what does she think?
“She just says it’s adorable,” Owens said.
This Everett Daily Herald story was distributed by The Associated Press.
Information from: The Daily Herald, www.heraldnet.com.