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Mr. Willie, beloved Walmart greeter: The man behind the BAM!

Mr. Willie, the 'Bam man', greets people as they enter the Maumelle Walmart. (Photo: KATV)

For many Arkansans, a weekly trip to Walmart isn't anything out of the ordinary. But for folks in Maumelle, that weekly trip to the Supercenter wouldn't be the same without a greeting from Willie Perkins.

Perkins, better known as Mr. Willie or simply the Bam Man, took a job as a Walmart greeter roughly a decade ago. It was a job to pass the time during his retirement from a 30 year career as a asphalt contractor - different work, but Mr. Willie approached it all the same.

"In what ever I did, I tried to do the best that I could," said Perkins. "You know - and try to make it interesting."

It's a job Mr. Willie takes seriously, making his job not just about saying hello but by making people feel good with a particularly upbeat attitude often topped off with a compliment.

But it's the simplest gesture that's made shoppers at Walmart #4460 fall head over heels for Mr. Willie - the BAM. It's become his trademark catchphrase - in addition to "alright now" and "hey girl". Willie's BAM is most likely the reason when Walmart initially phased out greeters in 2012 shoppers in Maumelle demanded their beloved Willie stay right where he was.

"When people won't shake hands with you - they'll bam you," said Perkins. "I get a bam out of everybody."

No doubt a local icon, his viral status came about when a YouTube user auto-tuned an interview done with Mr. Willie and transformed it into the Walmart Greeter Remix. Perkins has certainly embraced his fame - modestly - except for making screen-printed Mr. Willie t-shirts complete with graphics and catchphrases.

Although he doesn't refer to it as a calling from God, it's likely Mr. Willie's good feelings overflow from the pulpit. A part time preacher, Mr. Willie said it's all about living life to help others and help others live life to the fullest.

"I like to meet people, I like to talk to people and I enjoy people," remarked Perkins. "And so I just started doing that, and I always make my little addition to things that I think would uplift people and motivate them and stuff like that. That's me!"

Perkins said it's in the bible - to be a good person. It's why the 80-year-old tries to make everyone feel special when they walk in the store, especially those that appear to have had a rough day.

"I like to lay my hands on them and talk to them and look them in the eyes and be serious about it - not just holding a conversation," said Perkins. "And they seem to think it works - I believe it works because when people do me that way it works."

The power of touch is something Mr. Willie swears by; just a simple BAM can make the difference. Perkins said he's had countless customers approach him and say how much he helped brighten their day, just letting them know that someone cares.

"He's just always upbeat, in a good mood and happy and makes you feel good," said Brenda Stafford, a Willie fan. "You miss the bam when he's not here."

After nearly ten years on the job, most Walmart shoppers in Maumelle know who Mr. Willie is, and if they don't know him... he makes sure they eventually do. Most of those shoppers say they don't know what they would do without Mr. Willie.

Ashley Watson, a shopper who makes sure she checks out close to wherever Willie is said, "whenever he's not here, usually I come in here and I'll ask where's Mr. Willie?

His notoriety and positive attitude on the job isn't just recognized in Maumelle. Corporate Walmart officials call Willie a "Walmart institution" - and requested he make an appearance at the 2017 Walmart Shareholders Meeting in Fayetteville to rouse the crowd and help introduce the company's president and CEO, Doug McMillon.

"I consider that a great privilege to introduce the big boy," said Perkins.

He wasn't lying, yelling at the top of his lungs, "I got to go to the big house," across the store. Most shoppers say if you can't see Willie, you'll know if he's working or not - you can hear him on the other side of the store.

That loud voice and outgoing nature has Willie's talents in high demand, claiming a Little Rock area car dealership offered him nearly double what he was making at Walmart. Maumelle need not fret - Willie isn't going anywhere - he says Walmart will always be home. A simple man, with the simple goal of making people happy, one BAM at a time.

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