The Unsung Grocery Heroes

The entrepreneurial spirit of the food retail industry is embodied in the role of the store manager. Arguably, no other industry position is so in tune with the community, so motivated by the personality and determination of an individual or so resilient in the face of competition. It's this commitment to people, community and financial dexterity that we celebrate annually as the FMI Store Manager Award.

Store managers typically have more than 15 years of experience in the industry, so they are effectively entrenched in the company's brand, its core tenants and the values that they impart on the community. What's more, they are emotionally invested in these companies; more than 90 percent of grocery store managers report loving their job, according to surveys we've conducted with the Retail Feedback Group and Harold Lloyd1.

Our awards program scrutinizes store managers' impact on sales growth; their ability to effectively communicate to store associates company and store goals and objectives from a sales and customer service perspective; the success of their relationships with colleagues and their panache for leading and mentoring; and their execution of programs to improve overall customer service and better their communities. Many of the people we celebrate each year have overcome significant obstacles to reach company and professional objectives.

The future of food retail arguably resides with leaders like the 11 we celebrate this year, so it would be wise to continue to invest in their success.

Food Marketing Institute's 2017 Store Manager Award Finalists

Brian Amsberry,
Hy-Vee, Inc. Peru, Illinois
Brian Amsberry manages what is for Hy-Vee a medium-sized store in Peru, Ill, a small city with a population of about 10,000. Yet he and his team manage to consistently break company-wide sales records. How and why does Amsberry accomplish these sales? His laser-like focus on customer service.


Sally Angulo,
Fry's Food Stores, The Kroger Co., Phoenix, Arizona
Sally Angulo had success with Store 698 in Phoenix even before it opened. She held a town hall meeting with a theme of "USS Inspiration" for the more than 400 new associates before the grand opening where she told them of 10 important lessons, starting with "Be on time" and ending with "Don't ever quit, don't ever give up." Senior managers thought so highly of the town hall they have now carried it over to every new store opening.


Luis Ernesto Lopez Almanza,
Walmart Mexico, Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico
Everything starts with Luis Ernesto Lopez Almanza's relationship with his associates and the goals they work together to achieve. Each day begins with a 10-minute review of the previous day's numbers and how they fit into daily and monthly goals. He follows that with a meeting with all his direct reports where they go over the figures in more detail and make plans for how to achieve more success in the days and weeks to come. Finally, he is constantly on the sales floor, interacting and communicating with both his associates and his customers.


Jeff Brasel,
Skogen's Festival Foods, Appleton, Wisconsin
From practically his very first day as manager, Jeff Brasel has made daily routing a priority, moving through the store to tell everybody "Good morning" even before he takes off his coat. His goal is to have a conversation with every associate every day. He does that by routinely eating lunch in the breakroom — which he renovated recently, adding a snack vending machine, Keurig coffee machine, comfortable seating and fresh paint — and arriving sometimes as early as 4 a.m. to help stock shelves.


Pete Gardner,
Kings Supermarkets, Boonton, New Jersey
Pete Gardner not only managed his team and his Kings Supermarket through what can sometimes be a nightmare scenario — a major renovation while the store remains open — he managed to boost the store's bottom line and substantially reduce shrinkage during the renovation. Gardner motivated his associates to deal positively with the renovations and keep the customer uppermost in their minds.


Clive Gould,
SPAR Glenacres, Kempton Park, Johannesburg, South Africa
Clive Gould's store motto at SUPERSPAR Glenacres in Johannesburg, South Africa, is "Best in Fresh" and it has led to financial success. Gould's SUPERSPAR Glenacres faces stiff competition with 12 similar food retailers within a mile and a half. His tools for dealing with rivals include fresh products and a clean store. An especially intense focus is put on constantly replenishing the store's fresh products and a major renovation in 2015 has gone a long way toward projecting a clean, fresh image and enhanced offerings.


Cindie Jones,
Giant Food, LLC, Washington, DC
Having started with Giant 32 years earlier as a bagger, Cindie Jones knew what to do: Take it one step at a time. She takes that same approach with her team associates. Jones works to give them the tools to look at their jobs in terms of the larger storewide and companywide goals. She guides every assistant manager and every associate to understand their role in accomplishing the store's goals, helping them to break down their department's objectives into simple, concrete tasks.


Ricky Myers,
D&W Fresh Markets, SpartanNash, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ricky Myers makes every day seem a like a grand opening with new promotions all the time that focus on the superior quality of its produce (more than 300 organic items and 411 bulk options), meats, seafood, artisan bread program and deli (with more than 300 different specialty cheeses). Before the new competitor opened, he held meetings with every single one of his 175 associates to address the new sales and customer service initiatives, obtaining a personal commitment from each of them that they were with him in the battle.


Gary Casterline,
ShopRite of Hunterdon County, Phillipsburg, New Jersey
When Gary Casterline learned a competing grocery store was opening near his ShopRite of Greenwich in Phillipsburg, N.J., he didn't flinch. Even when the company anticipated a 10-percent decline in sales, Casterline simply went to work to remind customers how much his store had to offer them. Defying expectations, Casterline's store suffered no drop-off in sales. In fact, it boosted net income by 67 percent and decreased shrinkage by 8 percent, repairs and maintenance by 13 percent and supply expenses by 7 percent. Thanks to a focus on staff safety, worker's compensation costs were down 18.7 percent.


Danny Guerra,
Fiesta Mart, #53, Irving, Texas
Danny Guerra's unique informal style of leadership resonates throughout the store and the company. In his daily meetings with his management team, he shares company goals and new ideas to meet customer expectations. As he moves about the store during the day, whenever he sees managers huddling with their associates, he joins in. Guerra even encourages customers who are nearby to join the discussions as well and offer their advice on how to make Fiesta Mart a better store.


John Snavely,
Food 4 Less, The Kroger Co., Coachella, California
Why was the year-to-date Overall Satisfaction score for John Snavely's store 91 percent? Why is the Associate Insight score of 92 percent among the top five stores in the company? Finally, how did his 2016 EBITDA increase by 2.96 percent and shrinkage go down 1.29 percent? Snavely did it first and foremost by communicating constantly with his associates, the community they serve and other store managers in his district. He follows leadership guidelines he learned that have caused him to be highlighted as one of the most outstanding store managers in the Food 4 Less chain over three consecutive years.

1 FMI Store Manager Survey, Spring 2014, Harold Lloyd Presents & The Retail Feedback Group