By: Elizabeth Mackin, Assistant, Education, Food Marketing Institute

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” When the road ahead is unpaved, we look to those who can help guide the way. As the grocery industry continues to navigate a digital transformation, store managers will be crucial in translating the digital world to employees creating meaningful shopping experiences for customers. This leadership, commitment, and passion to serve customers makes store managers indescribable cornerstones in their communities. 

It’s with great excitement that I have the honor to announce our 10 finalists, four of whom will be named winners of the 2018 award at Future Leaders eXperience. Visit their profiles online and vote for your favorite nominee the week of April 23 on Facebook for the third annual People’s Pick Award.


Al Gartner_SMA Al Gartner, Lunds & Byerlys, Woodbury, Minnesota

Al Gartner was the first manager in a store that Lunds & Byerlys acquired in Woodbury, Minnesota. Starting on Day 1, his task was to introduce the existing staff to the Lunds & Byerlys culture, one in which a unique shopping experience is created for every customer. Among many other changes, Gartner and his staff initiated a program to help shoppers answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” It was so successful in driving sales that the Woodbury store was selected for a pilot program this year offering meal kits.

Jason JacobsJason Jacobs, Skogen’s Festival Foods, De Pere, Wisconsin

Since Jason Jacobs joined Festival Foods in 2010, four of his direct reports have become store directors themselves, further cementing the impression that the leadership he demonstrates now permeates the entire company. Signs of Jason Jacobs’ creativity are all over Festival Foods’ 31 stores. His innovative ideas and leadership skills have led to improvements in the way every one of the company’s stores does business.

Vic MeyersVic Meyers, Perlmutter Family ShopRite, Manahawkin, New Jersey

Vic Meyers started with Perlmutter Family ShopRites in 1978 as a part-time cart attendant. He has been at the Manahawkin, New Jersey, ShopRite store since 2003. That stick-to-it-itiveness in his nature has led to success in a region that has experienced tremendous residential growth over the last 15 years. When Meyers was first transferred to the store it was the only grocery in town; today, it has many competitors.

Kathy SweigertKathy Sweigert, Giant Martin's, State College, Pennsylvania

Kathy Sweigert rose to the challenge a couple of years ago when she took over leadership of the Giant Food Store near the Pennsylvania State University campus in State College, Pennsylvania. A year into Kathy Sweigert’s leadership, profitability grew from a negative 0.26 percent to a positive 1.67 percent. After 18 months, profitability was up to 3.02 percent and total store sales had increased 8.05 percent.

Mike Lipscomb Mike Lipscomb, Family Fare, Holland, Michigan

The customer always comes first at the Family Fare store in Holland, Michigan. Michael Lipscomb, who has been store director for the past seven years, sees to that. Lipscomb makes sure every department’s schedule is organized so that the bulk of the team is on the floor during prime time hours. He ensures each manager must be on duty at least one evening each week, assuring that there is plenty of managerial support throughout the store.

Mitch CochranMitch Cochran, Food City, Cleveland, Tennessee

Mitch Cochran, also known as “Mr. Mitch” to many in the community of Cleveland, Tennessee, qualifies as a “people person,” both in his Food City store and out of it.Cochran’s communications skills are his strength, most evident in how he works with his team. He invests in new hires to ensure their success, and he’s involved in every facet of hiring and new employee orientation.




Mitch StreitMitchell Streit, Hy-Vee, Inc., Council Bluffs, Iowa

The Omaha area food retail market is competitive. Shoppers have their choice of big-box discounters, regional chains, neighborhood independents and specialty stores. That’s why the success Mitch Streit has had at his Hy-Vee store across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa, is so astounding. Sales have increased every one of the last ten years Streit has managed the store.

Pam HudsonPam Hudson, Dillons Food Stores, a division of the Kroger Co., Hutchinson, Kansas

Ken Deluca, vice president of the Kroger Co.’s Dillons Division, said, “Pam leads by example, not only by following and executing all company initiatives and goals, but also by serving the community around her.” Her daily store walks allowed her to mentor store leaders and provided an example to them of how they should manage their own department team members.

Ron HeffnerRon Heffner, Weis Markets, Mountain Top, Pennsylvania

What’s the secret to Ron Heffner’s success? Simple execution, he says: Getting the right things done the right way every single day. Four years ago, Ron Heffner’s Weis Markets store in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, averaged $250,000 in weekly sales. Today, that figure has doubled and the store was named the 2018 Weis Markets Store of the Year Grand Champion.

Joanne WalkerJoanne Walker, SPAR Northern Ireland/Henderson Group, Co. Down, N. Ireland

Joanne Walker’s Spar store in Carrowdore, Northern Ireland, recently was re-branded as a Eurospar, but there was far more than a change of name involved. While remaining open for shoppers, her store underwent a nearly $2 million renovation that included doubling the store size; the introduction of a new butcher’s shop, deli and post office; and increasing staff by 50 percent. Despite the challenges that come with a physical remodel, sales increased 37 percent over last year. The keys to this success, Walker said, can be boiled down to two points: Attention to detail and developing a quality staff.