2010 Powe 50: No. 16 Rick Cohen

Rick Cohen - Power 50 ProfileRick Cohen, chairman and chief executive officer of C&S Wholesale Grocers [3], Keene, N.H., generally avoids the media. So it was no surprise that he stayed behind the scenes earlier this year as he authorized the company to provide relief for Haiti following the earthquake there.

Meanwhile, the privately owned — and traditionally tight-lipped — company also stepped into the public eye when it began reporting financial results following a $300 million bond issue in mid-April.

Sales at C&S declined slightly in the first half of the current fiscal year, to about $9.7 billion, while net income remained flat at about $40 million, despite a drop of 20.8% in the second quarter.

Several of its customers struggled with internal issues and the economy — chief among them A&P and its Pathmark subsidiary — industry observers pointed out.

“With negative same-store sales and store closures, A&P’s struggles have impacted C&S’ volume,” Gary Giblen, executive vice president of Quint-Miller & Co., New York, told SN, noting that business was also weak among other customers in the Southeast.

C&S also recently began rebranding some of its own retail stores with the Food World banner, part of an initiative to introduce — or reintroduce — the Food World name where it currently operates the Southern Family Markets chain. C&S had acquired several Food World stores in the Southeast from Ahold in 2005, and it acquired the rest of the Food World chain in a bankruptcy auction last year.

As for Cohen, his generosity was cited by SN last year when one observer called him a philanthropist “[who] has made the company very sensitive to the needy.”

That was demonstrated within 24 hours of the Jan. 12 temblor in Haiti, when Cohen gave C&S officials the go-ahead to get the company involved in helping earthquake victims, Gina Goff, director of community involvement, told SN. She quoted Cohen as saying, “Don’t tell me how little we can do — tell me how much we can do.”

With Cohen’s blessing, C&S launched “Stand With Haiti,” a campaign to collect cash donations from employees across its network of companies, including Grand Union Family Markets and Southern Family Markets — donations the company matched dollar-for-dollar.

C&S also donated medical supplies, which it flew into Haiti on the company’s corporate jet, plus 115 tons of water and food, which was delivered by military cargo or Federal Express planes.