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Homage Paid to True Food Retailing Leaders

The food retailing business isn’t for everyone.

For those who don’t like long hours, physical labor, juggling many tasks at once, dealing with the public as well as the stress of meeting set sales and profit goals, food retailing may not be for them.

For those who choose it as a life-long career, and for those who are successful in rising to the top, serving in the position of store manager proves food retailing is for them.

Ric Jurgens, Hy-Vee’s top ranked executive and Food Marketing Institute’s board chairman, found food retailing was for him after being named a store director in 1976.

“It was one of biggest days of my life and the only job goal I ever set to achieve. It was as good a job as I’ve ever had in my life, but it also was one of the hardest,” Jurgens told attendees yesterday at the 2010 FMI Store Manager Awards, which has less glam than the Academy Awards but no less excitement for those trying to win top honors.

This year the competition drew over 150 entrees. Among those were the three winners who demonstrated they can do all of the above, and more. And, they love what they do.

Winner in the small-store category, Dave McCleery, store director, Russ’s Market, Lincoln, Neb., has a “can do” attitude and passion for the business. He is described as a relationship builder when it comes to the team and the community. He supports the local food bank, Heartland Big Brothers and Sisters and other organizations through in-store activities and fundraisers.

When asked what he loved most about the food business, he said, “It is so multifaceted and there are so many connections with people inside the stores and the customers and organizations outside the store. It is so rewarding. The store I work in is such an integral part of my neighborhood. It is wonderful to be there. In this day and age with texting and with email just being in a business that is so people connected is a wonderful thing.”

McCleery, who began working for B&R Stores when he was 16 years old, explained that the food business “is an old school business that takes on the new technology and new developments that happen in the world and integrates it” in a way that affects people’s lives.

Winner in the middle-store category, Sharon Boyett, store director, Brookshire Grocery Co., Monroe, La., is known for her motivational skills and ability to empower employees. She is focused on the bottom line, increasing sales 2.4% over 2008 while reducing labor expenses.

Boyett says she loves the business because “I am motivated by challenge and this is probably the most challenging business you can be in. There are always new challenges whether it is to hit a sales or labor plateau.”

Winner in the large-store category, Molly Stiles, store manager, Kroger, Farragut, Tenn., is recognized for the impact her leadership has on her store and in the community. She believes supporting grassroots organizations is key to becoming the center of the community.

Stiles loves food retailing for its dynamism. “There are so many different jobs; so many different things to do and so many different parts to the industry. Many people don’t see that. It is challenging.”

Jurgens said such store managers are the heart and soul of food retailing. Store managers are at the front lines. They are responsible for connecting directly to shoppers. They are food retailers most valuable asset and are well deserving of such honors.