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Strack & Van Til unveils new executive team

Strack & Van Til unveils new executive team

Strack & Van Til on Monday announced a slate of executive appointments under CEO Ken Diehl, who joined the Highland, Ind.-based retailer in October.

“I’m very excited and pleased to announce the hiring of several new members to our executive management team as well as the restructuring of responsibilities across the board,” Diehl said in a statement. “These changes will strengthen Strack & Van Til’s ability to excel in the highly competitive markets we serve. This team provides exceptional skills in the cornerstones of our stores, particularly store operations, financial management, and customer service.” 

Strack & Van Til operates 20 stores under the corporate banner and another 16 Ultra Foods stores and 2 Town & County Markets. The chain, a subsidiary of distributor Central Grocers Inc., Joliet, Ill., operates stores throughout the Chicagoland area and in Northwest Indiana.

Chris Bengtson
Chris Bengtson

The new Strack & Van Til executive team, which is now fully in place, includes the following members:

Chris Bengtson, COO – With a career spanning more than 25 years in the industry, Bengtson arrives from Albertson’s Southwest Division where he held P/L responsibilities for 105 stores. He will focus on store operations, sales growth, store conditions, and identifying and developing talent in Strack & Van Til’s store management teams.

Jeff Strack, chief marketing officer, public relations and customer relations officer – With experience rooted in Strack & Van Til’s history, Jeff Strack was part of the leadership team that grew the company from 10 to 38 stores. His responsibilities will include all marketing and advertising programs, social and digital media initiatives as well as public relations, and consumer affairs issues.

Phil Latchford, CFO – Currently Strack & Van Til’s controller, Latchford will ascend to replace the retiring Keith Bruxvoort. Latchford will manage shareholder value, budgeting, forecasting, internal and external audit, and cash management.

Stan Swinton

Stan Swinton, chief merchandising officer – Most recently the VP of center store for A&P where he led center store marketing and merchandising for 301 stores, Swinton will own company-wide sales growth initiatives, innovation, profit margins, and sales and merchandising planning in his new role.

David Negron, VP of fresh and perishables – With an extensive background in retail food operations in the Chicago market for more than 31 years including his most recent tenure with Jewel Food Stores, Negron assumes a new role with Strack & Van Til. His knowledge of the market and store operations will be critical in the position which oversees key components of store merchandising initiatives.

Andy Raab, VP of real estate – A senior business leader for the past 16 years with Ultra Foods, Raab will assume responsibility of Strack & Van Til’s real estate portfolio including acquisitions, new store and remodel construction initiatives, and store facility maintenance.

Rex Mudge, VP of human resources – Mudge has more than 25 years in human resources associated with the retail food industry on top of a dozen years in operations. Mudge will be responsible for training and development, workplace diversity, recruitment and compensation, and organizational development.

Derek Kinney, VP of labor relations and customer service – Most recently the VP of human resources and labor relations for A&P, Kinney’s resume covers more than 31 years in the industry. He will oversee key aspects of labor relations and customer service initiatives.

Tom Cohen, VP of IT – For more than two decades Cohen has delivered innovative technology solutions in the retail and credit industries, including his role as CIO with Cohen will manage strategies in technology, systems integration, process innovation and emerging technologies.

In announcing these changes Diehl also acknowledged the contributions made by retiring VP of finance Keith Bruxvoort who has been with Strack & Van Til since 1989. “We wish Keith and his wife Bev nothing but the best as they move on to a more enjoyable pace after his many years of service to our stores.”


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Regarding the restructuring Diehl said, “What pleases me most about this new team is that so many of them started their careers in stores working as baggers and clerks, learning the business from the ground up. They have already established successful careers in our industry and many are leaving great companies to move to the Midwest, clearly embracing the vision we have for Strack & Van Til and Ultra Foods. Our customers, employees, suppliers and vendors will all benefit from the more than 200 years of accumulated experience that this team will now bring to every aspect of our operation.

“With these changes, our front-line employees, shareholders and our valued customers can be assured that Strack & Van Til and Ultra Foods are well-positioned to be at the forefront of a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive industry.”

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