AN EARLY RETIREMENT FROM RETIREMENT

MILAN, Ill. -- Until April, Pat Petitti, 64, was enjoying the second year of his retirement after spending 35 years at Eagle Food Centers here.president and chief executive officer, it wasn't a tough decision to make, Petitti explained."I think of Eagle as my company, though I own only a small piece of it. But it's my company in my heart, and anything I can do to help, I'm willing to do."I was asked

MILAN, Ill. -- Until April, Pat Petitti, 64, was enjoying the second year of his retirement after spending 35 years at Eagle Food Centers here.

president and chief executive officer, it wasn't a tough decision to make, Petitti explained.

"I think of Eagle as my company, though I own only a small piece of it. But it's my company in my heart, and anything I can do to help, I'm willing to do.

"I was asked to come back to evaluate, reassess and reassign -- to get the company more focused on sales and possible investments and not quite so focused on cost-cutting," he told SN.

When Petitti arrived, Gerald E. Barber, his successor two years ago, left Eagle. In short order, Petitti brought back Ken Martin, 57, a 25-year Eagle veteran who had retired a year ago, to succeed Bob Jaynes as senior vice president of operations.

"Ken and I have worked together for 25 years, and we each know how the other thinks," Petitti said, "which makes things perfect between us."

Petitti, whose titles were chairman and CEO upon retiring two years ago, isn't sure how long he'll remain with Eagle the second time around. "When Odyssey asked me to return, they didn't say how long they wanted me, and I didn't say how long I wanted to stay," he said.

However, while it's too early to begin seeking or grooming a long-term successor, "I definitely expect to be out by the time I'm 70," Petitti declared.

Coming back to Eagle has proved "a little frustrating in some respects, because several things had changed in two years, and to get back up to speed and begin to make some changes took time," he said.

"But meeting those challenges means I haven't had a chance to get bored."