Nine Finalists Vie to Be Named One of Three Grand Prize Winners

ARLINGTON, VA — April 22, 2009 — The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced today nine finalists in FMI’s 10th Annual Store Manager Awards competition. Three grand prize winners will be selected from the finalists and announced at Future Connect on Tuesday, May 5, 2009, at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas, TX.

     “Store managers play an essential role with responsibilities ranging from enhancing business operations and ensuring excellent customer service to training and mentoring employees. The most successful are also actively involved in their communities and connected to their customers,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI president and chief executive officer. “We are very proud to recognize the Store Manager Award finalists for demonstrating outstanding customer service, operational excellence and innovative community service.”     

The finalists were selected based on their ability to develop programs that create positive growth and customer satisfaction in their stores during the past 12 to 18 months. The finalists were also recognized for:   

  • Leading, mentoring and motivating store associates

  • Demonstrating a balance between people skills and operations skills

  • Communicating company goals and store milestones to associates

  • Improving the financial performance of the store

One grand prize winner will be chosen from each of three categories by size of the company: Category A (1-49 stores); Category B (50-199 stores); and Category C (200 or more stores). The list of finalists:

Category A:

  • Bob Gillick, store director at a ShopRite Supermarket in Yonkers, NY.

  • Emily Hoff, store manager at the Valley View IGA Plus store in Sidney, MT.

  • Blake Meek, store manager at a Lawrence Bros. IGA Supermarket in Roswell, NM.

Category B:

  • Cheryl Blanchard, store manager at a Price Chopper Supermarket in Delhi, NY.

  • Paul DiBari, store manager at a Brookshire’s store in Athens, TX.

  • Henry Falcon, store manager at the Sweetbay Supermarket in Plant City, FL.

Category C:

  • Jeff Barricks, store manager at a Safeway store in Corvallis, OR.

  • Denny Hartogh, store director at a Hy-Vee store in Dubuque, IA.

  • Randy Sentachi, store manager of a Lucky Supermarket in San Francisco, CA.

Finalists were selected based on stories submitted from their supervisors or store associates. The entries were judged on originality and creativity and the person’s impact on sales growth, customer satisfaction and community service.

     All nine finalists will receive two complimentary registrations for the Future Connect conference, three nights of hotel accommodations in Dallas and a crystal award. The three grand prize winners will each receive a $1,000 check.

The 2008 grand prize winners were Ralph Tower, MarketPlace Foods, Minot, ND; Cheryl Rondenelli, Hannaford Bros. Co., Clinton, NY; and Mark Halvorson, Cub Foods, St. Paul, MN.

More detailed information on the nine finalists for the FMI Store Manager Awards:

Category A

Bob Gillick is the store director at a ShopRite Supermarket in Yonkers, NY.   He is recognized for mentoring store employees and increasing employee job satisfaction scores at his store by 12 points in a two-year period. He is also ShopRite’s lead trainer for new store management joining the company. Gillick significantly improved customer satisfaction survey results at his store. Under his leadership, Gillick’s store surpassed established sales and profit goals and tripled operating income during a two-year period.    Gillick and his team assist many community organizations and participate in the Yonkers Hispanic Parade, the African American Parade, American Cancer Society Relay for Life and a project to clean up a historical property in Yonkers.

Emily Hoff is the store manager of the Valley View IGA Plus in Sidney, MT.   Hoff is nominated for her ability to successfully retain employees despite new competition and a changing marketplace. Her store’s employee turnover rate is near single digits. She works with her employees to emphasize the Four Tile Rule of greeting every customer within four feet of any employee. Hoff’s leadership and her efforts to engage customers and employees helped increase store sales by more than six percent the second year after a supercenter opened in a nearby town. She is involved in fundraising for many local community groups including the Relay for Life, Boys and Girls Club and the local food bank. She also created a high school program to help students learn how to manage a budget, including meal planning and food expense control.

Blake Meek is the store manager of Lawrence Brothers IGA Supermarket in Roswell, NM. He plans store events that attract shoppers from throughout his community. Meek’s store hosts a First Response Team recognition day, a citywide church bake sale, a Chamber of Commerce open house, a teacher appreciation day and other events that assist and build relationships with local organizations in the community. He made changes at his store based on what his associates said were strengths and weaknesses of the store in an anonymous employee survey.
Blake increased sales in eight months by $40,000 a week – a 25 percent increase – just a year after becoming manager of the store.

Category B

Cheryl Blanchard is the store manager at a Price Chopper Supermarket in Delhi, NY. She has held many positions in her 22 years with Price Chopper, but opted to take on the challenge of opening and managing a new store from the ground up. Blanchard is nominated for her commitment to her team and constant encouragement to associates to never settle for second best. This attitude has enabled her store to experience an 18 percent increase in customer count, a sales increase of six percent better than budget and a net profit increase 98 percent better than budget. Blanchard uses innovative ways to increase sales such as Tuxedo Delivery for Valentine’s Day. She also filled a shopping cart with private brands and called it Economic Cents to demonstrate how shoppers can save money on their grocery bill. She is active in the community and known for assisting others on her own, including serving four years as an emergency medical technician, and through many store projects.

Paul DiBari is the store manager at a Brookshire’s store in Athens, TX. He is recognized for reaching out to the community through many events at his supermarket. A holiday food drive inspired DiBari to come up with the idea to sell $5 and $10 bags of store brand items that customers could donate to the food drive. It was so successful, his idea was adopted company-wide. The store hosts huge pep rallies in the parking lot to honor students and teachers. He is known for leading and motivating others, taking time to teach, coach and demonstrate what needs to be done. As a result, nine colleagues whom he trained or worked with have been promoted to Brookshire store managers. DiBari is described as masterful at store operations, with recent sales increases up five percent.   

Henry Falcon is the store manager at the Sweetbay Supermarket in Plant City, FL. He is nominated for providing great customer service and enhancing the financial performance of his store by increasing comparable sales by 25 percent for the past year. Falcon is also recognized for developing highly trained employees, whose service excellence performance scores exceeded the company average in all 28 categories. He inspires team pride and offers a diverse and inclusive workplace for his employees, with seven associates promoted to management in the past year. Falcon is active in many community organizations including the Lions Club, Boys and Girls Club, Chamber of Commerce and Meals on Wheels. The store supports several groups through events like the Angel Christmas Tree Drive, school partnerships, a charity luau, golf tournaments and more.

Category C

Jeff Barricks is the store manager at a Safeway store in Corvallis, OR. He is recognized for his ability to execute innovative in-store programs and special events that improve overall customer service and community relations. Under Barricks’ leadership, his store surpassed 2008 sales and profit targets, ranking in the top 15 out of 117 stores in the division and number one in a major shrink reduction initiative in 2008. Barricks serves as a mentor and trainer for Safeway employees and devotes his time and expertise to developing his team and preparing them for career growth. In 2008, five store employees were promoted to department management and two were accepted into Safeway’s highly competitive Retail Leadership Development Program. His store is located near Oregon State University and he is involved in the university’s annual orientation and helps organize their diversity awareness programs. Barricks also works with the local Boys and Girls Club, coaches youth basketball teams, sponsors high school swim championships and serves on the local foster child advocacy board and Portland’s Diversity Advisory Board.

Denny Hartogh is the store director at a Hy-Vee store in Dubuque, IA.   He was named director of the store when it opened three years ago. Despite the many start-up costs associated with opening a new store, Hartogh’s store was profitable six months after it opened and he has increased profits every quarter since then. He personally conducts job reviews of all his benefited employees in a store with more than 400 associates. Hartogh builds customer loyalty in many ways. An in-store dietitian conducts store tours and offers one-on-one counseling to shoppers. His store encourages elderly customers to phone in their orders and have their food delivered. Two full-time employees patrol the aisles twice a day to encourage, mentor and train fellow employees on customer service. Hartogh instituted several events at his store to raise money for community organizations including school groups, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and a community health center.

Randy Sentachi is the store manager of a Lucky store in San Francisco, CA. He is actively involved in a number of community organizations while also managing the number one store in sales volume of all the stores owned by Save Mart Supermarkets. Sentachi leads a group that recruits, develops, assists and retains qualified Asian retail associates. He reaches out to the local community through store involvement in Asian festivities including the Floral Lunar New Year Fair, the Chinese New Year Parade and the Dragon Boat Festival. He also raises money for March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through different store promotions. Sentachi has developed store events to grow and drive sales, such as building a store display with 1,000 bags of cookies and inviting children to have their picture taken with Cookie Monster. The event helped sell more than 3,000 bags of cookies, outselling all other stores in the company.   


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