GREEN  Brady Long, 23, visited Buehler's Fresh Foods in Portage Lakes, 4045 S. Main St., recently not to purchase food but to share his grocery bagging skills.

Long, a River Styx Buehler's (Medina) employee, won the title of the National Grocers Associations (NGA) Best Grocery Bagger Champion at the national contest in Las Vegas in February. The competition was open to all store brands throughout the country.

His visit to the Portage Lakes store was part of his victory tour. Long not only took home the title, but also, $10,000. He used the money to buy a new Ford Fusion.

Others were welcome to compete against the champ at the Portage Lakes store, but not many wanted to take the challenge. One person who was up to that challenge was Green Mayor Gerald Neugebauer, who won the contest according to store merchandiser Bekki Huff because the competition was based on weight. However, as far as time went, Long won that aspect.

Long won the regional and state competition to gain the opportunity to compete with 22 others at the national level. He said there is more to bagging groceries that just seeing how many you can get in a bag. Each contestant has the same amount of items, in the same place and they are scored on how fast, how the items are placed in the bag and the distribution of weight. All three bags are weighed and the heaviest and the lightest are subtracted, and whatever the difference is taken away from your points. Long said that no glass items can be on the outer edges of the bags and the eggs and bread never go on the bottom.

He shared his trick for competition bagging: Once you put the item in the bag - leave it.

"I have seen people take it and pull it out of the bag or readjust it," Long said.

Long, whose trip to Las Vegas was paid for by the OGA, is not sure what he will do after graduation but he would like to work for Buehler's. He said the competition was fun and that while he had competed before, he had never gotten this far. The Wadsworth High School graduate is a senior at the University of Akron where is is an accounting major. He was going to visit every Buehler's, all 13 of them, to visit with employees and customers and compete with anyone that wants to do so.

"We are happy to have Brady here helping us out today," said Huff, who added the Portage Lakes location became a Buehler's about four years ago. "We have a great team here. We have great customers and we are close knit - a family atmosphere."